Monday, August 24, 2009

33. PJ Harvey "Good Fortune" (2000)

Who are you, and what have you done with Polly Harvey?

This list has its share of artists who have adopted new styles and completely rebranded themselves. Still, it's hard to communicate the radical reincarnation of PJ Harvey that arrived with her fifth proper LP, Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, and its lead single "Good Fortune." Until then, Harvey was known for the over-the-top theatricality and twisted darkness of her music. This is the same artist whose best-known song is about drowning her daughter. Stylistically, Harvey's music ranged from raw guitar rock to insular electronica. No one would have ever mistaken it for pop.

The first thing to note about "Good Fortune" is its apparent sunniness:
And I feel like
Some bird of paradise
My bad fortune slipping away
And I feel the
Innocence of a child
Everybody's got something good to say
Harvey, forever protean, has claimed she wrote melody-driven pop just to prove she could do it. Could she ever. Witness her swinging a purse and twirling from light poles in the song's accompanying video. By god, she actually looks happy. Was it all an act?

Who cares if it was? You can't listen to "Good Fortune" and not be carried be away by its exuberance ("looked into your eyes, and I was really in lu-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-ove!"). True, Harvey shifted back to darker moods with subsequent releases. But, her experiment with optimism remains her artistic zenith.

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