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