Listen Up: Imelda Marcos, the musical? For Byrne, it's 'Love'
By Elysa Gardner
6 April 2010
David Byrne has teamed with DJ/producer/musician Fatboy Slim to create a two-disc song cycle about the famous (or infamous) Filipino.
DON'T CRY FOR ME, MANILA.
David Byrne and Andrew Lloyd Webber may have little in common as artists, but they apparently share a fascination with the controversial wives of foreign dictators. Argentine strongwoman Eva Peron inspired Evita, arguably Lloyd Webber's most compelling musical; feisty Filipina Imelda Marcos— she of the 3,000 pairs of shoes and Swiss bank accounts — proves a playful, if less passionate, muse for the more reliably inventive singer/songwriter.
A two-disc song cycle constructed in collaboration with DJ/producer/musician Fatboy Slim (though Byrne is credited as sole writer on nearly half the tracks), Here Lies Love enlists a posse of esteemed singers to contrast Marcos' rise and fall with the less glamorous ride of her childhood caretaker, Estrella Cumpas. Allison Moorer and Sharon Jones are standouts, respectively lending earthy shine to the ebullient When She Passed By and soulful punch to Dancing Together. Cyndi Lauper finds the perfect balance of sugar and spice for Eleven Days, a sprightly account of the Marcoses' whirlwind courtship.
Another highlight is Why Don't You Love Me?, a funky diva duel pitting Lauper against Tori Amos; but even this potentially dramatic finale comes off as more of an artful lark. Byrne and Slim clearly see Marcos and Cumpas as more than just camp figures, but there's a certain archness to Here Lies Love that keeps us from really caring about their strange, sad story.