BY FRANCESCA LEWIS
Normandie Wilson Is Tired Of Being Nice — that’s certainly an album title that announces its intentions. San Diego songbird Normandie Wilson is back with a new full length record and a brand new badass attitude. Known for her smooth laid back stylings, often compared to Burt Bacharach, Wilson is infusing her usual brand of jazzy cabaret with a punchy feminist attitude meant to empower others to do the same.
“For all the hurts you endured and all the smiles you held in the face of bullshit.” She writes in the album’s liner notes, “This is for you.”
Produced with David Fleminger (Manual Scan, The Answers), Normandie Wilson Is Tired Of Being Nice is a bold statement from an artist in control. The album is imbued with a new bawdy yet classy tone, inspired in part by her year working with a gay cabaret.
“In working as a part of a gay cabaret singing everything from k.d lang and Lesley Gore to ABBA and show tunes, I tapped into a performance side of myself that hadn’t been used in a very long time. I also connected with a community of amazing human beings all bound together under the LGBTQ umbrella. I didn’t just learn about the songs, I learned about the queerness that’s always been there in much of popular music. One of our pals at the bar wrote the song “Sillouette,” which on its surface is a straightforward “straight” love tune… written by a gay man about 50 years ago! Learning more about the erasure of lesbian artists and musicians from popular culture was important for me, too. I had been a Lesley Gore fan for years and years, and didn’t know she was openly lesbian until just before her death. Performers like Josephine Baker and Dusty Springfield… it’s important that we know their real history instead of the sugar-coated version that fits with the dominant cultural narrative of the times. Learning the stories from within the community, you get the real story.”
Wilson has written about heartbreak before, but this time she’s breaking up more with a way of being than with any particular person. These songs are all about anger, revenge, heartache, and naming pain, yet the sound is still recognizably Normandie, her playful tone and effortless vocals delivering a battle cry wrapped in pink glitter packaging. Her show-stopping look, with bubblegum colored wigs and vibrant make-up, is flamboyant and clearly inspired by her time touring with the gay cabaret.
“The queer community is one of the few places where I feel comfortable, because I don’t necessarily have to have it figured out. I can show up as my somewhere-on-the-Kinsey-scale feathered and sequinned self and be met with acceptance and love, and offer my support and song to others to brighten their day a little bit.”
Focused on the modern-day chanteuse’s experiences as a woman in the music industry and as a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault, it is a rare marrying of vintage jazz/pop and very contemporary feminist ideas. In it she weaves tales of rejection and resilience, producing 40 minutes of solidarity with anyone sick and tired of wearing a smile in the face of adversity.
One of the high points of the album comes right of the gate, in the form of opening track “Thank You”. A powerful ballad with the refrain “Thank you for being so terrible to me”, this is the perfect song to play at full volume after kicking someone toxic out of your life. Check out the video below:
Normandie Wilson is currently in residence every Wednesday at San Diego’s historic Lafayette Hotel – stop by for a martini or check out her album on bandcamp.
Francesca Lewis is a queer feminist writer from Yorkshire, UK. She writes for Curve Magazine and The Human Experience as well as writing short fiction and working on a novel. Her ardent love of American pop culture is matched only by her passion for analyzing it completely to death.