On Beauty & Crime, Suzanne Vega's Blue Note Records debut, the Manhattan native uses New York City as the backdrop for a collection of eleven new songs that juxtapose acoustic guitar-driven melodies with coolly synthesized beats; intensely personal lyrics with compelling, short story-like narratives; images of today's scarred cityscape with memories of Vega's old Upper West Side 'hood and Lower East Side haunts. The past commingles with the present, the public with the private, familiar sounds with the utterly new, just like the city itself. Making her first new studio album in six years, Vega says, "I feel like I really stretched my limits. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone-to sing in keys I wouldn't have sung in before, to work with different textures, to be unafraid of doing what ever sounded good to me. I wanted to make a modern classic."
Vega has always been an adventurous artist, stretching the boundaries of the singer-songwriter format. When British producers DNA famously remixed her "Tom's Diner," giving the originally a cappella tune an ongoing life as a sought-after sample by many dance music and hip hop artists, they were simply responding to something Vega herself had done: "They felt the rhythm was already in the song and they just added to it. When I approved it, I felt that they'd expressed a part of my life that I was not able to do for myself at the time." Similarly, German programmer Karlheinz Brandenburg, the key developer of the MP3, found that Vega's voice was the perfect template when he began to work on the audio compression that would revolutionize music distribution, earning her the nickname "The Mother of the MP3." Last year Vega herself ventured into the internet world by becoming the first major recording artist to perform live in avatar form within the virtual world Second Life.
As fascinating as the New Yorkers she has been inspired by, Vega herself is full of stories and surprises: the everyday revelations, the grabbed-on-the-run wisdom, the strange, random, miraculous stuff that make up a singular career - or maybe just another life in the big city.