Ophelia (Natalie Merchant) – Album Review

The CD Cover - Natalie As Demigodess

The CD Cover - Natalie As Demigodess

I consider Natalie Merchant’s “Ophelia” as the point when her solo career really commenced. She had released an album before (1995’s “Tigerlily”), but that album was more like the closing of a stage than the start of a new one. Conversely, “Ophelia” (released in 1998) is her first truly realized artistic statement, using every device that she wants to use, and letting her own voice and musical vision dominate every single minute of the album.

In actuality, “Ophelia” was a multimedia project – the CD was accompanied by a short video, and stills from the film constitute the artwork of the album. A concept is clearly discernible, although there are songs like “King Of May” that deviate from the overall study of the famed Ophelia, a female figure par excellence, and an obvious choice for Natalie, someone always concerned about the way women are perceived and how these perceptions can end up being lies which are always true.

That is the theme of the album’s eponymous track, and the first thing you listen to when you play the CD. Incidentally, it will also be the last thing you will listen to – an orchestral reprise closes the album. The song studies the character of Ophelia all through history, her feats and the eventual disgraces those achievements were to bring about. The fate of Ophelia reminds me of the words of Yeats: “I’ve grown nothing/being all”. Is Natalie studying the role of women from a perspective that implies so much effort to be regarded as equal did nothing but accentuate differences that were actually small to begin with? And is the result of such a situation that women end up being relegated to submissive romantic roles, such as in the song “Frozen Charlotte”? Continue reading

Natalie Merchant – General Introduction

Natalie Merchant

Along with Emmylou Harris, Natalie Merchant is the female figure in music that I am the fondest of. Born in 1963, she began her career as a founding member of the American band 10,000 Maniacs in the 80s. I have covered them extensively already, and the only thing I have to say is that they were an incredibly talented group to which Natalie made a fascinating contribution, and when she parted ways with them in the early 90s many a heart went down. But as it turned out, both The Maniacs and Natalie would retain their edge and keep on doing what they did best: writing and performing music that goes from heart to heart. Continue reading