Petra Haden: Petra Goes to the Movies

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You might have heard of the American singer and musician Petra Haden, in connection with her collaborations with internationally acclaimed artists, such as The Foo Fighters and Bill Frisell. Or, if a cappella is your thing, you may be familiar with the solo album she released in 2005, containing a cappella renditions of The Who’s masterwork The Who Sell Out. With her newest album, Petra Goes to the Movies, Haden undertakes a similar musical experiment—this time featuring unique a cappella reinterpretations of famous movie soundtracks, from Psycho to The Social Network. After this introduction to her second go at a cappella covers of popular songs, the first question on your mind might be, “Why?”

The answer is simple: because she can. The album stands as testimony to the fact that Haden is a musician of enormous talent, in possession of unique vocal skills that enable her to pull the project off with surprising success—at least from a technical standpoint. The skillfulness with which she rethinks complex instrumental orchestrations (as in the Superman theme song) into multi-layered vocal renditions is impressive.

Praise thus given where it is due, some of her interpretations are so experimental that they pass beyond the ‘unique’ classification. They can be described as nothing else but ‘weird’ and, at times, ‘annoying.’ Unfortunately, rather than compelling one to press replay, the album’s 45-minute long display of Petra Haden’s unquestionable vocal talent tempts the listener to seek out the original versions of the songs.