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Nellie McKay

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Get Away from Me, the title of singer/songwriter Nellie McKay's debut album, was a play on two titles by romantic female vocalists who became popular in the early 2000s: Norah Jones' Come Away with Me and Jane Monheit's Come Dream with Me. But while McKay shares some of Jones' and Monheit's influences -- vocal jazz, cabaret, pre-rock Brill Building pop, torch singing -- and has some things in common with them melodically, it would be a huge mistake to lump her in with Jones, Monheit, and Diana Krall. Those jazz or jazz-influenced pop artists tend to be romantically comforting, whereas McKay's lyrics can be every bit as cutting, edgy, and biting as Alanis Morissette or P!nk -- and to lump McKay in with Jones, Monheit, and Krall ignores the fact that her work is distinctive and impressively unorthodox. McKay, who is also a talented pianist, brings an unlikely combination of influences to her work, which isn't easy to categorize. The New York City resident is relevant to pop/rock, but she is also relevant to cabaret, traditional pop, and vocal jazz. Tin Pan Alley, Kurt Weill, Cole Porter, Annie Ross, Peggy Lee, and Billie Holiday have affected her writing (either directly or indirectly), but so have Dory Previn and Randy Newman (the latter a frequent comparison), the Beatles, and hip-hop. McKay, in fact, shares Newman's penchant for lyrics that are cynical and sarcastic as well as dark-humored; like Newman, McKay knows how to laugh at the world even when she's complaining about how screwed up it is -- and she can be incredibly clever and witty. McKay was born in London, England, on April 13, 1984, but spent most of her early life in the United States. At the age of two, McKay (an only child) moved with her mother (actress Robin Pappas) to New York City -- and the two of them lived in Harlem until 1994, when they moved west to Olympia, Washington. After that, they lived in the Poconos in northeastern Pennsylvania, but in 2000, they returned to N.Y.C. so that McKay could attend the Manhattan School of Music. After dropping out, McKay briefly flirted with standup comedy but gave it up and made music her primary focus. McKay began performing around Manhattan in the early 2000s, and for a while she was managed by folk-rocker Lach (who often booked her at the Sidewalk Café in the East Village). McKay's gigs at Manhattan clubs like the Sidewalk Café and Fez earned her a small East Coast following, and in 2003, she signed with Columbia. Other labels had expressed interest, including Virgin and Blue Note, but she felt that Columbia had the greatest understanding of her musical vision. Nonetheless, McKay had some creative differences with the label; she wanted to call her debut album either Black America or Penis Envy, and Columbia disliked both. But eventually, McKay and Columbia agreed on the title Get Away from Me. Produced and engineered by Geoff Emerick -- best known for his work with the Beatles -- Get Away from Me was released in February 2004. Although it made the year-end lists of many critics, creative conflict between McKay and Columbia only continued. Sparring over producers and direction for her sophomore album eventually resulted in McKay financing the recordings herself; the result, titled Pretty Little Head, was due to be released in early 2006, but McKay was let go and the album was dropped from Columbia's release schedule. At the same time, McKay was busy rehearsing for a co-starring role in a Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera with Alan Cummings, Ana Gasteyer, and Cyndi Lauper. Pretty Little Head finally surfaced in October of 2006, released on McKay's own Hungry Mouse label and overseen by the indie spinART. Less than one year later, McKay returned with a 30-minute miniature entitled Obligatory Villagers. She also honored Doris Day with the 2009 project Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day. McKay's fifth studio effort, Home Sweet Mobile Home, featuring production from her mother Robin Pappas and creative input from David Byrne, was released in September of 2010. McKay spent the next five years relatively quietly but she returned in 2015 with My Weekly Reader, a collection of covers of songs from the '60s. ~ Alex Henderson
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Stations Featuring
Nellie McKay


Albums by
Nellie McKay

Top Songs by
Nellie McKay

  1.   Song
    Popularity
  2.   The Big One
  3.   It's a Pose
  4.   Crazy Rhythm
  5.   Dispossessed
  6.   No Equality
  7.   The Portal
  8.   Clonie
  9.   Bold Marauder
  10.   Inner Peace
  11.   Adios
  12.   Beecharmer by Cyndi Lauper
  13.   Do Do Do
  14.   Unknown Reggae
  15.   Baby Watch Your Back
  16.   I Remember You
  17.   Oversure
  18.   We Had It Right by k.d. lang
  19.   Really
  20.   I Wanna Get Married
  21.   Mother of Pearl
  22.   Testify
  23.   There You Are in Me
  24.   I Am Nothing
  25.   Suitcase Song
  26.   Hungry Freaks, Daddy
  27.   Ding Dong
  28.   Quicksilver Girl
  29.   Cupcake
  30.   Wild Romantic Blues
  31.   Mama & Me
  32.   Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
  33.   Black Sheep
  34.   David
  35.   Wooden Ships
  36.   Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying
  37.   If I Fell
  38.   Murder in My Heart for the Judge
  39.   Sunny Afternoon
  40.   Christmas Waltz
  41.   Caribbean Time
  42.   Absolute Elsewhere
  43.   Sentimental Journey
  44.   Send Me No Flowers
  45.   If I Ever Had a Dream
  46.   Dig It
  47.   Gin Rummy
  48.   Livin
  49.   Identity Theft
  50.   Galleon
  51.   Politan
  52.   Zombie
  53.   Pasadena Girl
  54.   Just One Of Those Things
  55.   Yodel
  56.   G.E.S.
  57.   Long & Lazy River
  58.   Gladd
  59.   Happy Flower
  60.   The Dog Song
  61.   Manhattan Avenue
  62.   Sari
  63.   The Dog Song
  64.   Waiter
  65.   Change the World
  66.   Toto Dies
  67.   Won't U Please B Nice
  68.   Work Song
  69.   Respectable
  70.   Beneath the Underdog
  71.   Swept Away
  72.   P.S. I Love You
  73.   Face of a Faith
  74.   Black Hills of Dakota
  75.   Meditation
  76.   If I Needed Someone
  77.   Tipperary
  78.   Pink Chandelier
  79.   Lali Est Paresseux
  80.   Wonderful Guy
  81.   I Will Be There
  82.   Close Your Eyes
  83.   Please
  84.   Poor People/Justice
  85.   BB Blues
  86.   Food
  87.   The Down Low
  88.   Old Folks
  89.   Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter
  90.   Consada Blues
  91.   Columbia Is Bleeding
  92.   Baby, You've Got What It Takes by Taj Mahal
  93.   Itchycoo Park
  94.   Bruise on the Sky
  95.   Red Rubber Ball
  96.   Mean to Me
  97.   Bluebird
  98.   Old Enough
  99.   ¡Bodega!
  100.   The Very Thought of You
  101.   Pounce
  102.   Real Life

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