6000 Songs: Antony and the Johnsons - Hope There's Someone

Post Reply
User avatar
Rob
Die Mensch Maschine
Posts: 2702
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:53 pm
Location: Nijmegen, The Netherlands

6000 Songs: Antony and the Johnsons - Hope There's Someone

Post by Rob » Sun May 28, 2017 8:09 pm

This topic is part of the weekly 6000 songs, 6000 opinions. In this, every week another song from the Acclaimed Music song top 6000 is selected for discussion. The song is chosen completely at random, through random.org, making the selections hopefully very varied. The only other rule in this is that after an artist has had a turn, he can’t appear for another ten weeks. The idea for this topic came to me because I wanted to think of a way to engage more actively with the very large top 6000 songs that Henrik has compiled for us, while still keeping it accessible and free of any game elements. Yes, that’s right, no game elements. You are free to rate the song each week, but I’ll do nothing with this rating. I want it to be about people’s personal reviews and hopefully discussions. So in reverse to other topics on this site I say: “Please comment on this song, rating is optional”.
Earlier entries of this series can be found here: http://www.acclaimedmusic.net/forums/vi ... ive#p45337

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“There's a ghost on the horizon/ When I go to bed/ How can I fall asleep at night?/ How will I rest my head?”

Image

78. Antony and the Johnsons – Hope There’s Someone

The facts:
Year: 2005.
Genre: Chamber pop.
Country: United States of America.
Album: I Am a Bird Now.
Acclaimed Music ranking: #370.
Song ranking on Acclaimed Music in the artist’s discography: 1st.
Ranks higher than Boys Don’t Cry by The Cure, but lower than Revolution 1 by The Beatles.
Place in the Acclaimed Music Song Poll 2015: #289.

The people:
Lyrics by Anohni.
Produced by Anohni.
Vocals by Anohni.
Piano by Anohni.
Drums by Todd Cohen.
Bass by Jeff Longston.
Violin by Maxim Moston.
Cello by Julia Kent.
Saxophone by Doug Wieselman.

The opinion:
It’s probably safe to assume that most people who visit Acclaimed Music frequently are familiar with Antony and the Johnsons, or lead singer Anohni’s recently started solo career. Her music and especially her voice has been a recognizable part of independent music for some time now. It’s such an idiosyncratic voice that it wouldn’t surprise me if you can remember where you first heard it.

I know I do. In fact, I came to know Antony and the Johnsons through Acclaimed Music. I was listening on Spotify to the then still top 3000 songs, while doing a long and tedious task. When you listen to so much music, quite a bit of which was rather unknown to me at the time, it can be hard to grasp each single song and it’s difficult for one track to stand out. However, there are the likes of Hope There’s Someone, that stand out with the greatest of ease.

How many songs sound like this? Well, the tracks on I Am a Bird Now do, but that album is by the same people, recorded at the same time. It’s not even easy to categorize this song. Read some online reviews and you can see it being described as a soul song, a spiritual, a chamber pop piece and whatnot. I don’t think there was too much precedent for something like this and there still isn’t.

The exception might be Roy Orbison, if he was given to writing openly existential lyrics and adding almost classical coda’s to the end. What Anohni shares with Orbison is an unusual operatic voice that sings a peculiar kind of heartfelt, night-time melodrama. For Anohni this only goes for her work with The Johnsons; her stylistic palette reaches further than this. It should be said that Anohni has mentioned her influences through the years and I couldn’t find a mention of Roy Orbison.

I was familiar with Roy Orbison for most of my life, since he was one of my father’s favourite artists. Despite the similarities, the voice of the woman then still known as Antony Hegarty came as something of a surprise. It might have something to do with what she was singing about. Anohni is one of those vocalists who have a way of directing your attention to what he or she is singing; a surprisingly rare gift that is hard to explain. The boring task I was completing was completely interrupted by this otherworldly voice that was singing about death in a particularly gripping way.

The lyrics are poetic, yet strangely direct. Anohni sings about the fear of dying alone; so much should be clear to anyone who paid five seconds of attention to what the singer is talking about. What gives these lyrics life is not just the deep feeling Anohni lies in her vocals (though it is a mayor part), but the striking imagery that the words evoke. Ghosts and men on the horizon, the sea, places between light and nowhere… It’s all as ghastly as the thin, high voice of Anohni, which suits the material like a pale-white glove.

The deep effect that Hope There’s Someone clearly has had on many people is I think partially due to the feeling that many people are afraid to die alone. There is something deeply sad about that idea. There aren’t too many songs about that as far as I’m aware of, maybe because it is too uncomfortable a thought. But it is a thought I guess everyone except the least self-conscious might have had.

The voice and the lyrics are accompanied by the band The Johnsons, whose chamber arrangements, give the whole a classy, but haunting feeling that is completely in tune with the deep melancholy of the song as a whole. Even the album cover of I Am a Bird Now has the right colours and composition to accompany this one song (though of course the whole album shares it’s atmosphere). The photograph of the cover is a literal deathbed picture of Candy Darling. That’s chilling enough, but with Hope There’s Someone playing on the background it becomes extremely haunting.

Thinking back to Roy Orbison I feel in hindsight that Antony and the Johnsons have coincidentally continued on what Orbison was doing on In Dreams. That song is rather innocent in its lyrics, but the song as a whole has a spectral feel about it that David Lynch tapped into when he featured it in Blue Velvet. That same fatalistic yet romantic atmosphere is present in Hope There’s Someone. I finished off last week’s review of La Solitude by Barbara with noting that it is a great late-night song. Hope There’s Someone as well as In Dreams belong to the same playlist.

I remember that moment that I first heard Hope There’s Someone as set in the night-time, though it might very well have been during the day. This song simply turns the brightest moment into a nocturnal period devoid of time (I’m typing this while it is daytime and it is thirty degrees Celsius out here). When I hear the song I’m still taking back to that first time hearing it.

I should also say that the song has never had that much power over me again. Maybe it couldn’t. I still love it, as this text probably shows, but my final score is lower than you might think (though still very good). The problem I had on subsequent listens was that the piano progression at the end isn’t quite up to par with what comes before. It sounds strangely hollow to me, not as clear or emotive as I feel it should be. I’ve heard it being mentioned that it was meant to sounds somewhat off-kilter, though if that is meant to add a ghostly effect like Anohni’s voice during that part, than it falls somewhat flat for me. For better or worse, her own voice sounds more like what I suspect the piano should sound like. It makes the song go out on too much of whimper, while it clearly tries to become a final elegy.
8/10

Other versions:
We haven’t been overwhelmed with covers of Hope There’s Someone. It’s a tricky one to sing, especially if you want to directly compete with Anohni. If you ask me, the way to go with covering this song is by rethinking it: use the lyrics in another musical setting. This hasn’t been done yet, though, so we get a couple of covers by people brave enough to venture into Anohni territory.

Least afraid seemed to have been Linnea Henriksson, a candidate for talent show Idol in Sweden. She actually performed the song there and it should say she did it very well. But why stop at one try when you could do it again? No less than Avicii approached Henriksson to provide her singing to his own dancehall-friendly version of Hope There’s Someone. It’s not because of Henriksson, but I think that this cover is an utter failure. I don’t have deep knowledge of Avicii’s discography, but I have to wonder if he could do worse. The thing is, Hope There’s Someone resists every attempt to make itself danceable. You can feel the strain on the song as Avicii tries to bend it into a shape it just can’t get in.

Mick Hucknall, yes the one of Simply Red, has many times been praised for his soulful vocals and while doing a tribute album to American soul music (actually called American Soul) he did a surprise selection of Hope There’s Someone. It’s not bad exactly, but it feels over-emoted. This is a song that in the wrong hands very soon can become overwrought and that happens here. The same goes for the live take by Elodie Di Patrizi. He gets a lot of applause during the song, but I feel it stands a bit in the shadow of the original.

Lastly, there is also Graham J., a guy with an equally operatic voice as Anohni. It sounds remarkable, even if a little superfluous in comparison to the Antony and the Johnsons cut. As does Anohni’s own live rerecording of the track for TUNING, a project about difficulties surrounding female identity. It’s just not as fluent as his original take (and the piano ending still doesn’t quite convince).

There is also a karaoke version in the list, because nothing is so suited to a fun party game than a song about existential despair.

Let’s just pretend the cover by New Tribute Kings exists. It’s best for them and for us.

The playlist:
Last edited by Rob on Mon May 29, 2017 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Duncan Thaw
Start Me Up
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu May 26, 2016 8:53 pm
Location: Scotland, UK

Re: 6000 Songs: Antony and the Johnsons

Post by Duncan Thaw » Sun May 28, 2017 10:52 pm

Since I've been on medication I've been much happier overall, but there are occasions when I miss some of the more extreme emotions. This song is one I arguably got more from in my pre-medication days. I still think it's great, though.
"I may not hope from outward forms to win/The passion and the life, whose fountains are within."

User avatar
Honorio
Die Mensch Maschine
Posts: 2585
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 7:38 am
Location: L'Eliana, Valencia, Spain

Re: 6000 Songs: Antony and the Johnsons - Hope There's Someone

Post by Honorio » Sun Jun 18, 2017 10:37 am

Rob wrote:Her music and especially her voice has been a recognizable part of independent music for some time now. It’s such an idiosyncratic voice that it wouldn’t surprise me if you can remember where you first heard it.
First of all sorry Rob for the delay of the comment (I'm doing some catch-up today).
I perfectly remember the first time I heard Antony singing. It was exactly on July 7th of 2003, on a Lou Reed show in my city during Reed's The Raven Tour. Reed was backed by a spare band (with no drums) that included the magnificent cellist Jane Scarpantoni and an (unknown to me at the time) Antony Hegarty on backing vocals. Antony remained singing seated in the background during the whole show but on the first encore she came into the center of the stage to sing lead on "Candy Says." Her androgynous appearance, her tall stature but her shy and mannered movements and especially her (as you told it) idiosyncratic singing puzzled the whole audience. People didn't know if to giggle nervously or to became ecstatic. Count me on the second group, it was a wonderful performance. Sadly I didn't find performances from this tour on the net, I endorse a performance from 2006 from the Lou Reed's Berlin tour, this time with a then famous Antony (after the wide success of "I Am a Bird Now") as a guest and singing the song as a duet with Lou Reed.

User avatar
Rob
Die Mensch Maschine
Posts: 2702
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 3:53 pm
Location: Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Re: 6000 Songs: Antony and the Johnsons - Hope There's Someone

Post by Rob » Sun Jun 18, 2017 11:10 am

Honorio wrote:
Rob wrote:Sadly I didn't find performances from this tour on the net, I endorse a performance from 2006 from the Lou Reed's Berlin tour, this time with a then famous Antony (after the wide success of "I Am a Bird Now") as a guest and singing the song as a duet with Lou Reed.
Lou Reed and Anohni are an odd mix, as they have ways of singing that are the polar opposite of each other (sardonic talk-singing and operatic melodrama respectively), but it works wonders on a collaboration as above.

This is the first video footage I saw of Antony personally, on Dutch television:
Yes, a reinvention of Beyoncé Crazy in Love. I already new she possessed an otherworldly voice, but this fragment also showed me she has a unique stage presence. I haven't seen her live personally, though.

Post Reply