Way back in 2006, before YouTube ruled the world, I had a year’s subscription to Paste, a magazine that arrived each month with a new CD full of indie songs and music videos created mostly by people I’d never heard of. I popped the CD into my laptop and half-watched a few forgettable videos while doing other things. Then I found myself captivated by a charming video made on a shoestring for a musician I’d never heard of before: Regina Spektor.
The song, “Us,” from her 2004 album “Soviet Kitsch,” became an instant favorite for my daughter and me, and we became immediate fans. We enthused about and shared her music with friends before anyone we knew had heard of her, and when she came to Seattle we got bought tickets to her show as quickly as we could. Her concert was wonderful, and shortly thereafter we began hearing her voice in cafes, trendy boutiques, then on the radio.
Since then she’s become so well known that you can even hear her voice in television ads or singing “You’ve Got Time,” the theme to the exceptional Netflix series “Orange is the New Black.” Now she’s everyone’s darling, and for so many reasons: her wit, her joy, her quirks, the occasional Russian phrase that rolls out of her mouth, the frequent classical Russian influence on her beautiful piano playing, and the endless surprises in her lyrics, her vocal fillips and her expressive playing.
Regina was born in the USSR and moved to New York with her family as a child to escape Communism and antisemitism. The influence of her heritage is never far from her playing, but it’s wonderfully intermingled with her Manhattan upbringing. My daughter and I feel like Regina is our old friend, our discovery, our pal, and the warm, funny, sweet way she has of engaging with fans during her concerts and on her Facebook page makes us feel even more like she is our own personal star. But you know what? We’re willing to share her with the rest of the world, too.