I didn’t know what to expect of Renée Fleming’s indie rock album, Dark Hope. First, I know of Fleming by name only — I don’t listen to opera to gauge how she compares to, say, Dawn Upshaw. Also, I’m familiar with only a few the songs on Dark Hope.
So I’m approaching Fleming and the material with a fairly blank slate, and I have to say — I’ve really taken a liking to the album. Fleming actually does a good job adjusting her voice to the material, sounding like a pop singer, not an opera singer slumming with the pop. (I heard only a snippet of Luciano Pavarotti dueting with Bono. Pavarotti was doing it wrong.)
I have no idea how bankable another Fleming indie rock album would be, but should she venture down this path again, I have a few suggestions for repertoire. Next time, she should try:
- Neutral Milk Hotel, "Two Headed Boy, Part 2" I wonder if the entire In the Aeroplane Over the Sea album could staged with Fleming singing the lead? Yeah, bad idea. But this closer has the kind of plaintive melody around which she could wrap her voice.
- Kate Bush, "Cloudbursting" Any Kate Bush song would probably suit Fleming well, but "Cloudbursting" in particular could have ended up on Dark Hope. Other contenders: "This Woman’s Work" (too obvious), "Hounds of Love", ", "Lily", "Pi", or "Man with the Child in His Eyes"
- Antony and the Johnsons, "My Lady Story" I’m picturing her version would incorporate early music instrumentation.
- The Sugarcubes, "Birthday" or Björk, "Jóga" I’m pretty impressed Fleming didn’t make the obvious move and include a Björk cover on Dark Hope, but her music would certainly test the singer’s mettle. A Sugarcubes song would be more challenging because Björk had not polished her melodic writing at that point. "Regina" would really be out of character. Who would do Einar Orn’s part?
- Grizzly Bear, "Two Weeks" Grizzly Bear is really overhyped, but part of me thinks if Fleming were to interpret this ubiquitous single from 2009, she could actually improve it.
- Guided By Voices, "I Am a Scientist" For this, I just want to hear her sing a couplet like, "I am a rock star, I fill myself with rock ‘n’ roll. I am an incurable, and no one else behaves like me." … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead turned "The Goldheart Mountaintop Queen Directory" into an orchestral song, so it’s not unprecedented.
- Hem, "Half Acre" Yeah, this song has since become the jingle for Liberty Mutual Insurance, but it was a good song before then. Fleming would have big shoes to fill were she to take on Sally Ellison.
- Depeche Mode, "Halo" Slow it down, make it more like a burner, and this could work.
- The Replacements, "Alex Chilton" OK. This suggestion is just plain silly. A Fleming cover would be shooting the moon. (I could have suggested a Pixies cover.)
- Rufus Wainwright, "Les feux d’artifice t’appellent" This song already comes from Wainwright’s opera, Prima Donna, so it probably wouldn’t be much of a challenge for Fleming. But it would be nice to hear.