Zipless: Songs From The Works Of Erica Jong

Vanessa Daou

DRKR Records, 2018

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Vanessa Daou’s 1994 release Zipless (which is now making its vinyl debut) has a lot in common with one of pop music’s greatest albums, Madonna’s 1992 classic, Erotica, starting with the theme of explicit sexuality. Zipless is based on the poetry of Erica Jong, with its title derived from Jong’s 1973 best-selling novel Fear Of Flying. The openness and artfulness with which Zipless explores its theme resonates very closely with what Madonna did on her record.

Also, the electronic music on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Erotica and Zipless were seminal during their times and still continue to be distinct to this day. Furthermore, the jazzy chill-out sound of this disc, along with its cold synthesizers and groovy bass notes, appear like they could have been inspired by Madonna’s use of jazz influences.

Comparisons aside, Zipless is a powerful disc on its own. But its real beauty lies in the calm and relaxed expression – musically and vocally – of oftentimes over-the-top sexually charged lyrics. It is as if Vanessa and her then husband/musical partner (currently a political strategist) Peter Daou are tempering the lyrical brassiness with a softer and subtler musical realization. The outcome is an intimate listening experience with songs that do not get caught up in the heat of the eroticism but are more relaxed, slow, and sensuous.

Vanessa’s breathy vocals are meditatively sensuous, and pair up perfectly with Peter’s minimal electronic compositions, which are lean on beats and full of pulsating velvety bass lines and jazzy pianos. The singing and the music can get a bit one-dimensional, as the songs do not vary much in style from one to another. But there is no denying that the whole sound of the album, which is a wonderful mix of laid-back lounge music and ambient pop in an urban trip-hop setting, was one-of-a-kind 25 years ago – and still is to this day.

Zipless’ quiet and gentle characteristics are quite the opposite of Erotica’s pop bombast. Yet it is impossible to not picture these two releases as kindred spirits because of their bold and provocative concepts and the elevated and sophisticated ways in which they express their motifs. For sure, this release is certainly no Erotica. However, as a disc that came out after Erotica, Zipless seems to have been conceived solely to carry the torch lit by one of the most daring pop music masterpieces. If this is truly the case, then the idea is certainly not far-fetched.

Rating: B+

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