The Very Specific Desire of Rhye’s “Woman”

I’ve been in a bit of a mood over the past few days, and just started re-listening to an old favorite album on a whim that ended up matching that mood perfectly, so I figured I’d get some musical analysis in and talk about the album “Woman,” by Rhye.  (listen: )

This album is primarily about desire, that much is made fairly clear the moment you begin the album by its classy, sultry, low-tempo jazz backing the beautiful, not-quite-but-definitely-high-enough-to-be female crooning that envelopes you in a warm, inviting sound, and certainly by the time track two starts with a gorgeous harmony on its “oooooooooohhhhhhh….make love to me,” you’ll get the idea.  However it’s because of this current mindset that I’ve gleaned some insight into exactly what type of desire this is.

It isn’t a hungry desire, a desperate one, as the sexuality diffused throughout this album may lead one to believe it to be.  Nor, however, is it a desire to partake in something one has possession of I believe, a request one is expecting to be fulfilled.  It lies in between the two, a sort of resigned longing.  The hopelessness of that desperate desire is there, but not the energy behind it, there’s instead a lethargy, or a resignment to one’s fate here.  That same heavy-heartedness of looking at something you know you have a great want of, but will have to wait for, will not be attaining at this point in time, is what’s present here, and indeed, it is a tangible weight in that area of my chest that I feel listening to this album.

It’s so gorgeously composed and performed though, a gentle echo given to most of the soundscape really enforcing that sense of loneliness and futility, such a thoroughly enveloping experience that it’s a real delight, for me at least, to simply embrace and wallow in these feelings.  In a way it’s sort of existence-affirming, for what is living but feeling?  And yeah, it’s jazzy, which I love; it makes me feel classy and pretentious (see: previous sentence).


*Edit: so that was written after just the first 3 tracks, after which the feelings had built up to a point where I had to get that bit of analytical thought out, but as the album progresses there’s a bit of a change.  It’s more that it goes through different types of desires, the start of the album being as described above, and then things like that desperation also being explored, one track having the singer describe themselves as a savage beast stealing kisses under the sheets, and having all sorts of imagery, like a fading flame, conveying the fleeting and perhaps even destructive nature of this desire.  The beginning of this album had always appeal to me a bit more, and I guess that’s why.  The more subdued, melancholic desire embodied by the first third or so is something that resonates more deeply with me.

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