Flashback Cafe - Suzanne Vega - 99.9F


Mai 18 2011, 14h48

I always thought 99.9f degrees was an under looked gem of the 1990s. Suzanne Vega for most people is a two hit wonder with her hitsluka and Tom's Diner (remixed by DNA). She then mostly faded away into the folk/college rock/Lilith Fair background.

What's interesting about 99.9F is how Suzanne and then husband Mitchell Froom embraced synthesizers, drum machines and samplers for an understated but interesting electronic/industrial sound…something MTV clumsily described as "post industrial folk"

All the songs are still traditional modern folk with thoughtful lyrics, and none of the electronics are in your face, except perhaps the clanging industrial percussion of Blood Makes Noise

Theres definitely a melancholic streak running through most of the songs, except maybe the fun carnival of Fat Man and Dancing Boy

Vega swears it a coincidence (though she is flattered by it) but 3 of the songs here could very well be about the HIV/AIDS crisis. If not, she seems very attracted to medical imagery on the album, right down to the title track

Blood Makes Noise
Bad Wisdom
Though Vega explains
"SV: So many people have told me that that I'm starting to think it's true myself. But that wasn't what I was thinking of at all. I wasn't thinking of AIDS at all. But a few people have told me, including AIDS workers, that the song and the album really hit them in a personal way because of their work with AIDS, but it is not what I was thinking of. It's one of those things where you write something that is personal to yourself and it hits a nerve in a way that you don't expect."

Perhaps its not about HIV at all but at the very least, strong on Medical Metaphors
If You Were In My Movie seems to be the only weak link on the album, and even that has a line

If you were in my movie
I'd have you as the doctor
Small black bag
And a big black coat

I'd have you make a house call
To the woman
You could lay your
Diagnostic hand
Upon her belly and her throat

As Girls Go she appears to be addressing a man with gender identity issues, pretty brave for the early 90s.

Anyways, very fond memories of this album of high school and college, that was totally different from anything I was listening to at the time. Proves how good music, no matter what its genre, can touch you.


  • byzansia

    Very nice article. I also think 99.9 F stands out among other Suzanne Vega records. I love how subtle and experimental in a modest way the sound in that album is. It was Mitchell Fromm obviously who made it sound like that as the producer of the album. Thanks for pointing out the relevance between HIV/AIDS and the three of the songs’ lyrics by the way - I didn’t know about that. It makes sense to me although she says there was no intention of referring to AIDS. Nice coincidence.

    Jun 25 2011, 15h06
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