Band of the Day

2012.08.20

Betty Black

Alluring, gothic pop ballads from a sultry songstress
A deep voice buried in the breeze creeps in and invades the trees, set loose from a lovely home.
lyrics from Spring Blossoms

Singer Sylvia Gordon had a slew of musical projects, including New Wave Brooklyn-based trio Kudu, Vivian Alive! and now, Betty Black. Last year, Gordon released the '60s girl group-inspired Slow Dance EP (Frau Pink Productions/ Kid Recordings, 2011)—the first in a trilogy of EPs about young girls’ ascents into womanhood. She’s no stranger to the music world having worked with some of pop’s biggest acts including Benny Benassi, Moby, Kelis and The Black Eyed Peas, co-writing the latter’s #1 UK hit single “Meet Me Halfway.” Gordon since released two singles off her forthcoming Bad Weather EP, due out Summer 2012, the sultry ballad “Am I Not Your Girl" and the title track “Bad Weather."

Sylvia Gordon seems to be living her life by the Friedrich Nietzsche quote that's on her website: “without music, life would be a mistake.” After graduating from the Berklee College of Music, where she won a Chair Award for playing bass, Gordon went on to front the New York electro-pop band, Kudu. She's also collaborated with the likes of Moby, Kelis, Benny Benassi, Télépopmusik and The Black Eyed Peas—she even co-wrote the latter's 2009 hit single, “Meet Me Halfway.” In late 2010, Gordon came up with her latest musical project, a self-described “Southern gothic chanteuse” character known as Betty Black. Under this pseudonym, Gordon moves away from the futuristic disco sounds of Kudu and the commercial pop of The Black Eyed Peas, and looks instead to influences like Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Patsy Cline and Lee Hazelwood. Her 2011 debut Slow Dance EP is a six-song collection of chilling slow-burners. In true murder ballad fashion, opening track “Spring Blossoms” has the type of haunting and echoey vocal effect that sounds like it could have been recorded in a mausoleum. Yet, somehow Gordon has the ability to make even a morbid scenario sound dark and sexy; you can envision her lips pouting seductively while she sings lines like, “a deep voice buried in the breeze/creeps in and invades the trees/set loose from a lovely home.” While Gordon often slips into a sultry, purring growl, she's not afraid to let her vocal register soar up a few octaves. “Came Home Cryin'” has her showcasing her operatic “ooh-ooh-ooh's.” With the addition of light horns and strings over lyrics like, “I've got over two year's worth of mascara-tainted tears,” Gordon sets a very film noir mood. In addition to her own original songs, Gordon also includes two covers on the EP: The Shirelle's 1960 hit pop song “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow,” and “Ever Fallen In Love” by Buzzcocks, originally released by the UK group in 1978. With the latter song in particular, Brown completely transforms it from a melodic, quick-tempo punk song into a sensuous number with a slightly theatrical feel, as if she's a spy who masquerades under the guise of a burlesque performer. While Betty Black is a relatively new side character in the grand scheme of Sylvia Gordon's music career, the Slow Dance EP proves that she's more than worthy of becoming the leading lady.