Dancing barefoot to the Imelda Marcos OST
GMA News (Philippines)
By Carmela G. Lapeña
7 April 2010
Here Lies Love is a 22-track, 2-disc collaboration from 80's band Talking Heads' David Byrne and Fatboy Slim that's very likely to be played on repeat.
The tracks are mostly dance music - synthy, upbeat, and cute in the way that only bedroom voice singers like Roisin Murphy and Camille can get away with. The album features songs from more than 20 artists, all pretty big names including Cyndi Lauper, Tori Amos, Sia, Santigold, Martha Wainwright, St. Vincent, Natalie Merchant, and David Byrne himself.
The tracks could easily be part of lounge playlists, and you can't help but tap your feet to the infectious music.
It sounds like Sade one minute and Daft Punk the next, and that's not a bad thing.
And then it hits you. Wait a minute, there's something about these songs that's vaguely familiar and you can't quite figure it out.
Rose of Tacloban
The first song is generic enough - "When I am called by God above, don't have my name carved into the stone, just say, Here Lies Love."
The album begins slowly with a smooth song called Every Drop of Rain by Candie Payne and St. Vincent, which feels a bit like Smooth Operator.
The dance floor vibe is really a cue to get ready for the tracks to come, as the next tune You'll Be Taken Care Of by Tori Amos is a definite invitation to dance.
Suddenly Martha Wainwright is singing about The Rose of Tacloban - and if it isn't the strange way she pronounces Tacloban - the realization that hey, this is all about Imelda! will surely make you sit up and listen. That is, if you aren't too busy already dancing.
It turns out that first song "Here Lies Love" was referring to the strange and beautiful (arguably more of the former than the latter) cultural dictator's preferred epitaph. Yes, it's an entire album about Imelda Marcos - sans her infamous shoe fetish.
What, no shoes?
As Raymond Gill wrote in The Age, "It's like doing a concert about Pinocchio and not mentioning his nose."
Disco in Malacañang
The project began as a disco musical that had its world premiere at the Adelaide Festival on March 9 four years ago.
The inspiration came even earlier, sometime in 2003 when Byrne was reading The Emperor by Polish author Ryszard Kapuscinski. "Then he saw something about Imelda frequenting Studio 54 and having a disco in her palace in Manila," wrote Iain Shedden for The Australian.
The idea is that each song is interpreted by a different singer, with each singer more or less epitomizing the emotion and approach specific to the songs, according to David Byrne on his website.
Each song is about a specific theme or situation in Imelda's life, and although the lyrics are not particularly flattering, they aren't insulting either.
Byrne wanted to dig deep into Imelda's character, and let the audience put themselves in her shoes, so to speak.
In general, the entire album is a lot of ear candy, with a few really soulful moments, but as far as figuring Imelda out, it's very kind to the fallen steel butterfly, who, as it happens, is currently trying to relaunch her political career by running for a congressional seat in next month's national elections.
Still, the songs are catchy and pleasant to listen to, and while you can't help but dance to tracks like How Are You? by Nellie McKay, tracks like Steve Earl's A Perfect Hand gives you time to rest and just enjoy the music.
Cyndi Lauper's angry girl song Eleven Days is about how the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos swept the former first lady off her feet in a whirlwind courtship of, yes, eleven days. Then, Allison Moorer sings, rather literally, "How she looks when she passed by, I feel like I'm watching history" in When She Passed By. Charmaine Clamor sings '80s style in Walk Like A Woman, which sounds like background music for that makeover scene in those coming-of-age movies.
There are some ridiculously funny moments, too. "Sometimes you need a strong man," sings Roisin Murphy in Don't You Agree.
A strongman, did she say?
Meanwhile, Camille sings in Pretty Face, "We'll show the whole wide world that we have a pretty face." Dancing Together by Sharon Jones is one of the stickiest tracks in the album, followed with Alice Russell's Men Will Do Anything, and Kate Pierson's The Whole Man.
If the whole idea seems strange, it may be because David Byrne set out with the question, what drives a powerful person?
He says on his website: "Imelda's story resonates today - the needs that drive powerful people are varied, but awfully familiar.
The story I am interested in is about asking what drives a powerful person - what makes them tick? How do they make and then remake themselves?"
"Wouldn't it be great if - as this piece would be principally composed of clubby dance music - one could experience it in a club setting?" Byrne wondered.
"Could one bring a 'story' and a kind of theater to the disco? Was that possible? If so, wouldn't that be amazing!" he wrote.
The album is sold in a 2-disc set which includes a DVD with six videos featuring news and archival footage to "show that every word of the song is true," Byrne explains.
"Most of the lyrics on this one are lifted gently from interviews and quotations — the “please don’t" chorus especially," he says.
Byrne wrote that at some point as first lady, Imelda began to feel that she could help Philippine interests by charming world leaders into seeing things through “handbag diplomacy" as she called it. The term refers to how she would sometimes bypass President Marcos and just grab a handbag and hop on a plane with some of her assistants.
Meanwhile, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, who is also running in the coming elections for a senatorial position, seemed pleased at the idea, although he has not listened to the album.
"Eh di, bilib na naman ako sa nanay ko, naging inspirasyon pa siya ng magagaling na musiko," he said on Saksi.
However, if he wants to listen to the album, it looks like he can't count on getting a copy from his mother. According to Rogue magazine, Imelda would rather be the one to make her own musical.
No surprise there. This is, after all, the woman who made a Powerpoint presentation on the meaning of life.