Tuesday, November 22, 2005

"Va Va Voom" Star of the Day

Julie London
Ted Naron, the music critic, writes:

The most remarkable thing about Julie London is remarkable indeed: that she used her erotic persona not so much to interpret songs as to change the nature of them to become something other than when sung someone else. Ella Fitzgerald or Sarah Vaughan or Peggy Lee may have sung the definitive version of this or that tune, but London wasn't playing the same game. This may be a function of her coming to recording only after starting a career as an actress.

Born Julie Peck in 1926, London made her first movie in 1944 and had already been a sexpot in 13 films by the year of her first album (1956). As a singer she had technical limitations, but as an actress she knew how to work within these to create a song style consistent with the seductress image - and luckily, among her many physical attributes, she had the ears to make it a highly musical style. She used her breathy, sexy, sultry voice (to use three of the most often used Julie London adjectives) not to sing a version of a song that could compete with someone else's on a scale of good to best, but to change it's meaning. [For example, her rendition of ] 'Girl Talk' changes from a piece of instruction to a piece of seduction. 'Wives and Lovers' is no longer friendly advice to a gal pal, but a threat.

London constructs these scenarios with certain stylistic tricks that may have been born of necessity. She sings in short, breath-in-your ear phrases. No disciple of Sinatra-style phrasing, London's typical unit consists of no more than three to five words, and phrases of thwo or even one word are not uncommon. She also has an interesting habit of falling off just a microtone in pitch at the end of many phrases, which has the effect of enhancing a sense of intimacy. And she almost never sings loud...It's impossible not to admire the way she uses [these effects] so musically and in the service of her persona - a persona that may have had very little to do with the real Julie Peck, but which was highly effective during a prolific mid-1950's to mid 1960's career.

Backed by various accompaniments from solo guitar to jazz combo to big band to orchestra, she is always subtly hip. Whether her jazz-flavored sensibility was shaped by her husband, songwriter/musician Bobby Troup, or whether she and Troup gravitated to each other because they both loved Jazz, is unknown. It is safe to assume that Troup had a lot to do with the various backings she performed, as he produced several of her albums, though he isn't usually credited as arranger.

Julie London fansite: Our Fair Lady
...and an Amazon.com Search of her albums

If you'd like desktop wallpapers of any "Va Va Voom" Stars, let me know - they're all made up and ready to go!

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