Back in the second half of the 80’s, experimental folk-pop chanteuse Suzanne Vega released two albums that arguably represented the initial blueprint eventually implemented by a legion of folk/alt/pop/experimental/acoustic singer-songwriters – Sarah McLachlan, Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Sinead O’Connor, Shawn Colvin, Alanis Morisette, Jewel to name just a few – to achieve stellar levels of chart success and unprecedented critical acclaim, along with defining the landscape of popular music throughout the 90’s.
Vega’s 1985 self-titled début as well as 1987’s ‘Solitude Standing‘ remain two of the most defining albums responsible for pioneering the raw folk-meets-a cappella-meets-alternative sound that dominated the soundscape of the latter half of the 90’s. With albums like Alanis’s ‘Jagged Little Pill‘ and Jewel’s ‘Pieces of You‘ receiving Diamond certifications for sales over an astounding 10 million units in the US alone ( ‘Jagged Little Pill‘ remains one of the highest selling albums globally with over 33 million units sold worldwide), Vega’s contribution to music has been rather overlooked, and mostly under-appreciated.
Well, which is precisely why we celebrate Vega’s genius on today’s Throwback Tuesday post by giving a much-deserved shout-out to one of her biggest hits!
In 1987, Suzanne Vega’s sophomore album ‘Solitude Standing‘ became a surprise commercial hit (and in the process opened a million doors for music producers to hop on to the alt-folk-pop bandwagon), eventually being certified Platinum in the US, as well as the UK, where it charted at # 2 on the Official UK Top 40 Albums Chart. Two songs from the album soared up to the top 5 of both the US and UK Charts, including the global smash ‘Tom’s Diner‘, and the highest charting song of her career, the Billboard # 3-peaking ‘Luka‘.
Back in the day, ‘Luka‘ was a song that I loved for its melody. The lush vocals blending in with the haunting melody was all that I cared about – and of course, being a kid I didn’t really understand what the song was all about. Coming of age, the spine-chilling realization hit me that ‘Luka‘ was a first-person account of child-abuse – and for a while I had actually stopped listening to the song at all cuz I would invariably feel low after listening to it.
Ironically, the song sounds absolutely serene while dealing with heart-wrenching lyrics like –
‘I think it’s because I’m clumsy
I try not to talk too loud
Maybe it’s because I’m crazy
I try not to act too proud
They only hit until you cry
After that you don’t ask why
You just don’t argue anymore
You just don’t argue anymore’
It hits you like a truck, when you realize that the horror of child abuse, as described in the terse lyrics, has been metaphorically denied through the ‘happy’ melody of the song and juxtaposed with Vega’s exquisitely breathy vocals – depicting the denial some victims of domestic abuse go through to come to terms with ‘normalcy’.
An absolute classic, one of the first songs ever to bring forth the issue of child abuse – and definitely one of my fave songs of all time!
Check out the Michael Patterson and Candice Reckinge-directed video for Suzanne Vega’s ‘Luka‘ right here :