Rumer – Boys Don’t Cry

Posted: June 24, 2012 in 2010s, 2012, Music, Rumer
Tags: , , ,

Rumer_BoysSophomore albums can be a figurative bear. A singer-songwriter has his or her entire life to write and develop the songs on the first release, and then about a year to write and record the follow-up, often under very stressful circumstances.

“The hardest thing is losing the people I love,” Rumer told me via e-mail. “I’ve lost two boyfriends since this started because of the touring commitments and pressure of the job. They simply had to move on, and I had to accept that. It’s painful to be alone, and to check into hotels and stare at white walls. To go out and sing and give all this heart and emotion, meet all these people and then go back, take off all the makeup, brush my hair and stare at the white wall again, alone. It’s loneliness like I have never experienced before.”

As a result, the British singer-songwriter decided to deviate from the usual career trajectory and release an all-covers album for her second set, though one with a twist: the songs are all written by men.

“It all started when I came across a song called ‘Long Long Day’ by Paul Simon from his 1983 movie ‘One Trick Pony.’ It was a lesser-known song and, when we jazzed it up with piano and strings, I suddenly thought, ‘I want to do a whole album like this.’ ”

That tune, which wound up as a bonus track on the deluxe iTunes version of her debut Seasons of My Soul album, set into motion what would ultimately become Boys Don’t Cry, a collection of heartfelt songs from the early ‘70s that was released in the U.K. in late May and will see the light of day in the States this September. (It’s available as an import through Amazon at the moment, however.)

“I learned a lot during the process,” she said. “I learned that men are more sensitive than women, actually, and that while their emotions may be obscured, they are still very much there, and run deep. I also learned that men can be cowardly, and a lot of the things that they do that hurt women are because they are more cowardly than mean.”

The project encompassed recording so many songs, in fact, that at one point she contemplated making it a double-CD.

“There are so many demos and extra tracks,” she said. “Getting them down to 16 for the special edition was a real battle.” (It reminds me of the lines “deadlines and commitments/what to leave in, what to leave out” from Bob Seger’s “Against the Wind.”) Among the songs she left behind: Jackson Browne’s “Late for the Sky,” which she demoed but decided not to move forward with.

But there’s no quibbling with the final selections, which on the regular edition range from the obscure (Jimmy Webb’s “P.F. Sloan”) to the well-known (Hall & Oates’ “Sara Smile”), and include some truly jaw-dropping performances – Isaac Hayes’ “Soulsville” is one. The special edition, which features four additional songs, adds a lilting, lovely reading of Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel” and a spine-tingling rendition of Neil Young’s “A Man Needs a Maid.” Other highlights include Clifford T. Ward’s longing “Home Thoughts from Abroad” and a song I’ve taken to singing to my cat, Todd Rundgren’s “Be Nice to Me.” Each time through you’re guaranteed to hear something new, whether in the shading of her vocals or in the instrumental accompaniment.

It’s near-impossible to write about Rumer without mentioning Karen Carpenter, of course, given the remarkable similarities between their vocals. There are times when her voice dips into a lower register, such as Richie Havens’ “It Could Be the First Day” and Paul Williams’ “Travelin’ Boy” – that the resemblance is so uncanny that one could be forgiven for thinking an unreleased Carpenters song had been slipped into the mix. Even in those moments, however, or during the well-known numbers, she immerses herself in the emotions and meanings of the songs to such an extent that comparisons and original versions fade away. She doesn‘t just make them her own, she makes you forget everything except the song at hand.

In short, listening to Boys Don’t Cry is like stepping through a time warp and arriving in the post-Woodstock, pre-Watergate era of adult pop, soft rock and bell-bottom jeans.

Comments
  1. […] Rumer, at least in these pages, needs no introduction. […]

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  2. […] I’ve written about the album before, so I won’t rehash what I said, but perhaps this will place it into context: It’s one of the few non-Neil Young albums that I’ve re-purchased in high-res form (in this case, 24-bit/88.2kHz). She’s often compared to Karen Carpenter and, tonally speaking, the similarities are indeed striking, but the singer she most reminds me of is Dusty Springfield, who caressed and phrased lyrics in such a way that songs transcended into private, albeit one-sided (and very melodic) conversations. […]

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  3. […] with the first two albums from the British pop chanteuse, Seasons of My Soul and Boys Don’t Cry, the songs conjure an era when “adult contemporary” was in vogue – i.e., from the late […]

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  4. […] written before about how her music conjures the era when adult pop, soft rock and bell-bottom jeans were in […]

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  5. […] second album, Boys Don’t Cry, is available in 24/88.2. The gradient shades of her delivery are richer as a result, with a […]

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  6. […] of cool songs she chose to perform in concert, on TV or in the recording studio. (Her second album, Boys Don’t Cry, is an all-covers affair, of course; and her B-Sides compilation includes […]

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  7. […] Thoughts from Abroad.” This mesmerizing cover of Clifford T. Ward’s classic song is from Rumer’s sophomore set, Boys Don’t […]

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