Everybody who is fond of funk music from the late 2000s has probably somewhere heard of Nellie McKay. Played by low-pitched instruments with changing emphasis from strong to off beats, the sense of rhythmic movements in her music will probably make you want to get up and dance. Let’s listen to her melancholy-filled songs, explore her tragic noir vibes and wicked sense of humor, and dive together into the late 2000s funk.
Nellie McKay is a British-American Broadway singer and songwriter who made her debut in 2006 while taking part in the Threepenny opera. She is well-known for her dedication to human rights. Coming from a Harlem Holly Golightly, she’s a social activist, particularly, feminist, with a disarming mastery of pop culture. Also, she’s vegan and actively protects the rights of animals, which is one of the reasons why she has become an influential figure and inspired thousands of women and people in general who adores music.
There was a time when she used to play in the subway and all she needed for happiness was the audience who would listen to her and discover pleasure in their eyes. It made her think that she wasn’t invisible and made her happy and the end of the day. “It’s still better than being ignored, or kicked in the head”, she said in an interview with Steve Horowitz at PopMatters. However, times have passed after this time and now Nellie is one of the most admired musicians even in these days when her songs are not relevant for today’s world.
Beginning of Nellie’s career
Nellie started her career back in 2004 and the buzz about her live shows quickly spread all over the US. Her first album, “Get Away From Me” was a huge success. It could be found on many year-end best-of-polls these days. Her unique style of combining pop, rap, jazz, funk, and show tunes in just one track with her deadly provocative intelligence, quickly made thousands of people her fans. Her next two albums, “Pretty Little Head” and “Obligatory Villagers” were also widely rated as a new word in the musical industry. By this time she was also involved in a lot of projects that included composing music. Also, she appeared in several movies, wrote book reviews for the New York Times, and starred as Polly Peachum in the Broadway opera, for which she received a special award of a Theatre World Award as the best debutant.
References of pop culture in her songs
One of the reasons that make her songs unique and beloved by the public is that she often adds references from popular culture in her songs and albums. For example, “Get away from Me” is an album that is loaded with lots of references to politicians, pop singers, or tv stars, like George W. Bush, Dr. Phil, and the Olsen twins.
One of her most special songs is called Gin Rummy. It’s not her most popular one, but it resonates a lot more with New Yorkers as it’s where the game was created. Gin Rummy is a simple and entertaining card game that is usually played in casinos. Although funk may not be usual for casino atmospheres, hearing Nellie’s songs there isn’t uncommon there. Many games similar to online Gin gambling can be seen with foreign online casinos who sometimes put this particular song in the background to make it cozier for their players. Therefore, Nellie is widely loved not only by the funk admires but also by people taking part in gambling, especially in New York.
People usually like these kinds of things and all of these make the public feel even closer to her. Another song which is one of the most popular ones is from her 2009 album ‘Obligatory Villagers’ and is called “Identity Theft”. While listening you can easily find the sense of the magic world as she references Ray Bolger. However, it’s not a random one and as people think, it refers to the fact that Bolger famously played a character with no brain – scarecrow in the fictional land of the Wizard of Oz created by American author L. Frank Baum. At the beginning of the novel, the Scarecrow reveals that he lacks a brain and wants to have one. This character turned out to be special for Nellie, she feels somehow connected and used it in her hit song.
Although the most productive years for Nellie have been back at the beginning of her career, she continues to work, maintain her position in the music industry, and remain a beloved musician. Her unique voice still deserves so much attention from the public and even now, she’s considered as an ambitious, intriguing, and clever artist. According to The New York Times, she is an articulate musician who sounds comfortable in any era, meaning that today’s digitalized world and its challenges are still relevant to her work. She is also praised by the Boston Globe, and as they say, thanks to her, American music still has a living, breathing present as well as a glorious past.
It’s important to note that McKay’s music has been featured on several popular movies and tv shows, such as Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS, Nurse Jackie, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Weeds. She’s music has been heard on TV shows including The Late Show with David Letterman, Conan, Ferguson, and The View. All these things indicate that she’s still appreciated in the public.
Now she is still considered as a multi-talented singer, songwriter, and comedienne, and continues to record new albums. She released her last EP “Bagatelles” in 201 and had a big tour in 2018 which was a huge success. In 2020 fans are waiting impatiently for the release of the dates of her new tours where they can be filled with funny, touching, and clever talent because one thing is certain about Nellie is the size and range of her talent.