Dita von Teese - Dita von Teese (Review)

Martin_Canine
DITA VON TEESE
Dita von Teese
★★★☆☆

NOTE: I intentionally wrote “Dita von Teese” instead of “Dita Von Teese”. That’s how it’s written in German, and at least according to Marilyn Manson, it’s supposed to be German.

Okay, first things first: self-titled albums are usually works that bear a special meaning to their respective artist within their discography, but I doubt this one is, except perhaps for it being Dita von Teese’s debut record. The burlesque dancer lended her voice, name and body to the collection of tunes, but apart from that, the credit goes to Sébastien Tellier, who wrote and produced the music, and couldn’t resist appearing on the cover. In fact, if this was billed under the name Dita von Teese & Sébastien Tellier, less people would be turned off, as the record isn’t as much an effort of a C-list-celebrity to make some cash by releasing a couple of rushed pop tunes but an artful album that just happened to have a TV personality on the vocals.

Of course, von Teese is not aiming for the mainstream masses. After all, she once was with pop’s biggest nightmare Marilyn Manson, and perfectly observed what intelligent music sounds like. Those who don’t know: Manson is a highly intellectual person whose songs are created within the context of the then-current state of American society, made to expose bigotry and issues. But I already wrote about that in a separate post. Anyway, there’s also more to Dita von Teese that meets the eye. She was classically trained in ballet and is known for her interest in 1940s cinema and fashion. So naturally, her first musical effort is fortunately not another Paris, but has higher aims.

Instead of club tunes, RnB, hip hop or other genres that guarantee commercial success, the sound of the music is more reminiscent of the soft, delicate and chilling indie/chanson/electro hybrid of Charlotte Gainsbourg, although of course not to such high quality and with less originality. This strong influence of high European art culture is owed to the album’s French composer, and it is in no way altered to fit the international market, expecting to get light hearted pop pleasure. In that respect, Parfum's slow, light piano loop and whispered words will sound graceful and aesthetic to those who are familiar with sitting down and carefully studying art, watching it unfold, but will confuse the average radio listener. Tellier keeps the tempo calm, and the compositions steady and cool, allowing us to soak in the atmosphere of his introverted soundscapes.

That being said, von Teese might have not been the best choice to embody this musical vision. Her singing lacks any routine, and feels insecure throughout the entire record. It’s clear that she has zero experience, but then, when asked about the album, she never claimed to be a good vocalist. You might say that her limited singing ability add a nice touch of honesty to the subtle songs, but it’s always on the edge of being too little. Gainsbourg for example delivers some vulnerable vocals as well, but you know that it’s a very willing decision and that it takes a lot of skill to sell it authentically. In contrast, von Teese sounds as if she just couldn’t give a better performance, which is most likely true. Luckily for her, it’s more about the music and the words anyways, and the tunes she needs to sing don’t demand much from her, so she always stays within the rage she’s comfortable with, and in the end it doesn’t harm the listening enjoyment of the usually very fragile, intimate songs. It just keeps the project within these boundaries.

Comments

NOTE: These star ratings are not necssarily permanent, they capture my opinion at the moment. A 3 and a half star rated albums might rank higher on a list about my favorite albums of the year than a 4 star rated one at the end of 2018. Sometimes albums wear off over time, sometimes they grow on me. I won't change the star ratings on these reviews though, they should stay as they are. - Martin_Canine

I hate Dita Von Teese she's rude and ugly and can't sing,act,or dance - visitor

I wouldn't be too harsh on her. She's foremost a burlesque dancer, and she classily mixes eroticism with dancing. She doesn't make it vulgarly like many do. - Martin_Canine