This isn’t actually a greatest hits CD as much as it is just a collection of tracks from Sophie B Hawkins’ debut CD Tongues and Tails and her follow-up Whaler. Songs from Timbre aren’t included as the artist has purchased back the rights of the CD from Sony. This CD is Sony’s one last attempt to get money out of this artist and as far as I know, is available only in Europe and Asia. I don’t even think Ms Hawkins sanctioned this CD, but what the heck. This CD is tailor-made for the fans. It has the best tracks from both of those CDs, and it is a magical listening experience on how good Sophie B Hawkins can be in telling sensual love stories.
There is her biggest hit, Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover, in which a schoolgirl stalks the much older object of her affection with lines like “That old dog has chained you up all right… I’ll give you something sweet each time you come inside my jungle book”. I was knocked away the first time I heard this joyously dirty ditty, and it’s still good to listen to years later, with hooks that still dig into one’s senses and just won’t let go. “Damn! I wish I was your lover, I’ll rock you till the daylight comes” – what a chorus, what a song!
Another great one is California Here I Come, a song of hope borne of desperation. But that is nothing compared to Ms Hawkins at her most dark – in the haunting Before I Walk on Fire, a desperate woman tries to remain humble before a religious icon in some hope to find redemption, but her inner sexuality eventually just has to surface and she ends up offering something more carnal in return for salvation. Don’t Stop Swaying is a dark take on Hensel And Gretel, frankly and bluntly reveling in the incestuous elements of the fairy tale. It is a common theme in Ms Hawkins’s music, as showcased perfectly in We Are One Body (“We are one body, we are one spirit, one dream one breath one life one death one God one sex…”): she celebrates the hedonism of the human spirit, religion and taboo be damned. The words from her songs can unroll like the best of Anaïs Nin’s dirty works, and it is a joy to revel in them.
This joy is more evident in flirty, naughty tracks like Let Me Love You Up (“Baby I dreamed ’bout you last night, it was a lovely dream alright, I wish that it would soon come true, ‘cos it was made for me and you”).
But when she takes a middle ground and gets a little bit more philosophical about love, tracks like I Need Nothing Else and Did We Not Choose Each Other are the gems that result. The former is an often verbose but very effective hard-hitting song about a woman who tries so hard to resist only to succumb to love. It’s humorous, defiant, and whimsical all at once. Did We Not Choose Each Other is a quieter track with often incredulous lines like “Just because we lived like dolphins” (huh?) but there is an unabashed romanticism in her words such as this part:
Did we not choose each other?
Are we just heroes for a day?
This time I would stand by you
And mine is the heart I will save
Compared to these songs, her more accessible hits like the beautiful ballad As I Lay Me Down and the really average Right Beside You seem like disappointments. As an eulogy for her father, As I Lay Me Down has some really beautiful lines:
Heavy hearted ’til you call my name
And it sounds like church bells
Or the whistle of a train
On a summer evening
I’ll run to meet you
Barefoot… barely breathing
But if Ms Hawkins paint beautiful words of romantic love or just getting rough and dirty like the best of them, the music is also very good on the ears. Each song sticks to my mind as having its own little identities and themes, like unique short stories of love, sex, and pain, Sophie B Hawkins style. Even now, almost eleven years since I first heard these songs, they can still evoke the most earthy pagan sensuality or most whimsical romantic yearnings. Simultaneously dirty and wide-eyed innocent all at once, playing the Madonna/Whore complex coyly and devastatingly to the hilt, Sophie B Hawkins is one great artist who would have gone far if she has been luckier in her career choices. She can capture the most glorious and also the most terrifying moments in a relationship with just a few strokes of her pen. Nobody does bisexual and illicit awakenings and coming of age like this woman, and until today, I don’t anybody else has ever come close.
If I Was Your Girl will never beat listening to Tongues And Tails, but otherwise it is just perfect: the best tracks from this lady’s short career with Sony are neatly compiled here for me. Some gems like Listen and Love and Let Love are noticeably missing, but with thirteen amazing tracks and one new one (her cover of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down), If I Was Your Girl is Sophie B Hawkins at her finest form ever.