Alannah Myles – Black Velvet

First Hit #1: March 24, 1990

As evidence of my suggestion that “real” instruments were quickly becoming the cool thing to do, here’s Black Velvet, which isn’t synthesized at all. We’ve got guitars and bass – the bass pushes the song forward – and the raspy vocals of Myles herself, which call to mind a thousand dive bars and a million cigarettes. It’s great, and I genuinely love the song. It’s also a retro song that doesn’t feel explicitly retro. It’s a song about Elvis, and it’s arguably in an alt-country style, but it still feels like it belongs in 1990. Maybe it’s because for a song about Elvis, it doesn’t try to ape Elvis in any way, and Myles shows that while her influences are clear, she’s not beholden to them. Maybe it’s because it’s a break from the more recent past, but still has a slightly thin sound that was shared with everything in the year. Maybe it’s because it’s presaging the female alt-rock boom that lead to things like Lillith Fair and Alanis Morissette. It might just be because my brother had this on cassette, who knows. Myles is still pushing forward into the new decade, and while she’s a little bit removed from many of the big movements, it still shows that as the ’90s roll in, we’re going to be going in a different direction than even the immediate past.

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One Response to Alannah Myles – Black Velvet

  1. RBerman says:

    We haven’t seen a raspy, bluesy Bonnie Tyler/Kim Carnes rock chick here for a while. This song has a great chorus, but the verse seems like killing time. The acoustic guitar turns to a clean electric halfway through the song, reappearing in the outro. The Bon Jovi style keyboards seem a little out of place. Surprisingly, the MVP instrument is the shuffling bass, mixed in front.

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