Regina Spektor is everywhere. You can't go far without hearing her music in sappy dramas (Grey's Anatomy), websites for crappy media players (Microsoft's Zune), commercials for radio (XM Satellite Radio), and even on the radio itself. It's an odd close-platform assault, but damned if it isn't the least offensive, if not sweetest, pop-star push I have ever seen.
Sure, Regina Spektor's introspective pop might be a little too Lilith Fair at times, but the alternative rock world needs a new queen, since all the previous incarnations—from Tori to Fiona—have stayed active, but failed to capture the crown of their early days. Okay, that last Fiona Apple record was pretty solid, but admit it, you wanted to like it more than you actually liked it. It was just a post-'90s representation of how mean those jerky record companies can be when they shelve perfectly good records for the sake of quick profit.
Anyway, back to Regina Spektor. While much is made of the kitsch of her being Russian-born (hence a debut named Soviet Kitsch), her foreign upbringing—moving to the States at age nine—is only a slight influence on her piano-heavy sound. Instead, she draws more from a well of older (American-born) jazz musicians than she does from, say, Alla Pugacheva, or t.A.T.u. Few things echo more of an American suburban upbringing than singing out the wonders of G'N'R, as she does on "On the Radio," the finest track on 2006's Begin to Hope. "On the radio we heard 'November Rain'/That solo's really long/But it's a pretty song/We listened to it twice/'Cause the DJ was asleep," before touching on more heavy, Axl-less issues: "You laugh until you cry/You cry until you laugh/And everyone must breathe/Until their dying breath." It's a nice sentiment, especially when it comes from Spektor's soft-as-a-prayer vocals that jumble and pace out each and every word, until they bear more weight than they were ever intended to.
Her voice, an instrument content with doing far more than just singing, uses a wide range of methods to chirp and moan out each syllable. This is most evident in "Fidelity," her omnipresent single that uses glottal stop, a singing method in which the vocals cords are pressed together to constrict the flow of air before being quickly released. While it's not a skill that will set the pop music world ablaze, Spektor seems to understand adding a little personalized flair to her craft will help weed her out from the sea of similar-sounding—and marketed—sensitive piano-playing females. If this vocal trickery, and the all-out assault on the senses via a blanket of licensed material, is enough to place Spektor on the top of the pop world, then so be it.
Regina Spektor plays at the Crystal Ballroom on Tuesday, April 24.