THIS SONG CHANGED MY LIFE

CLAIRE DICKSON ON LAURIE ANDERSON’S “O SUPERMAN”

by Claire Dickson

May 9, 2019
Claire Dickson
Photo by Sasha Pedro

“I figure this is what it would sound like to listen in on my thoughts.”

It’s not pretty, but it’s not ugly either. It’s a female voice, but not feminine or masculine. A simple texture created by a short, heartbeat-like “ha ha ha” induces a calm, neutral affect. A goofy, nasal, vocally-processed voice sings “O Superman” and creates contrast without dissonance. It affirms and exemplifies the possibility of making music that is not sad, happy, or primarily emotionally charged, but instead communicates personality and essence. More mysterious than music, it is a vehicle for emotional expression. I figure this is what it would sound like to listen in on my thoughts.

My gut reaction when I first listened to Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” last summer had a ripple effect on the way I was thinking about music at that time. I find that this kind of abstract lyricism and message is underrepresented in vocal music. Using unconventional sounds, surreal lyrical content, and not shying away from the absurd, I hear Anderson sharing a genuine version of herself, inspiring me to do the same.