Being stuck at home with a broken foot is as good an excuse as any to catch up on some movie watching and I couldn’t resist the recent Florence Foster Jenkins, with the acting genius that is Meryl Streep, about the socialite, erm, singer.
Known worldwide for her terrible, dissonant singing, lady Florence was an enthusiast of the musical arts – an enthusiasm she would unfortunately share with those around her through concerts and recordings which we all can still delight in.
Long before I was ever introduced to her singular vocal talents, however, I discovered Florence’s kindred spirit: Portugal’s very own and equally unimaginable Natália de Andrade.
From a different era and an entirely opposite financial background, Natália started recording only after her 50s. Despite being penniless, she would often brag to neighbors and on her own personal journals about how she was a star in the operatic world and had a successful international career. What she did have were a couple of recordings made in Spain and invites to perform on national television shows – more as a comic act than a singing talent. Not that she was aware of it.
When listening to either of these two paramount treasures of music history, one cannot help but ask what on earth were these women thinking?
How couldn’t they a) hear themselves and b) realize they’re being laughed at?
In one of her many interviews to promote the movie, Meryl Streep compares Florence to children, who will play and sing and dance, without caring about whether they’re doing it right. Self-consciousness and self-doubt only settle in many years later. Natália de Andrade was later praised not for her talent, but for her passion. Good or dreadful, she loved music and went at it wholeheartedly – in a very physical way too, if you’re audacious enough to watch her sing live.
Is there a fine line between courage and madness? And can you actually call it courage when the level of delusion is this blatant?
Be it as it may, both ladies are part of a genre I call So Bad It’s Actually Good. Like going past an accident you can’t help but stare at, there is some special feature in the psyche that makes me want to hear it again – even if my ears feel violated.
If you can’t get enough of it, Florence and Natália both feature on The Muse Surmounted album, alongside an entire set of deluded divas.