You know what the music world really needs now? Sophie B. Hawkins. The singer-songwriter had an incredible run in the early ’90s, doling out sharp, melodic folk rock from a uniquely feminine perspective years before Sarah McLachlan conceived of the Lilith Fair. Hawkins’ 1992 debut album Tongues and Tails put her on the map, and her 1994 follow-up Whaler — which was released on this day in 1994 — made her into a superstar.
Hawkins’ approach to music was really to have no approach at all. After spending time studying the percussion of other cultures, starting jazz combos and playing in a punk band or two, she brought together all those elements into her music, often with jarring results (there’s a song on Tongues and Tails called “Carry Me” — a rant about her mother — that suddenly bursts into feedback at the end). Despite the radio-friendliness of “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover,” Tongues and Tails was weird.
Such was the same case with Whaler, which again had a huge mainstream pop hit (the pretty lullaby “As I Lay Me Down”) that sat among a lot of varied experiments and forays into other avenues (Hawkins was clearly becoming interested in country music and bluegrass, but her melodies were far too gentle and ethereal, which created an incredible dissonance even among the gentlest songs). Thought of as a bomb when it first came out, Whaler eventually became a giant hit nearly a year later (when “As I Lay Me Down” was finally released as a single).
A dispute with her label delayed the release of Hawkins’ third album, and she has been working independently ever since. Her last album was 2004’s Wildnerness, though she has put together a charity single or two in the ensuing years (Hawkins is a very active proponent of animal rights). Though “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover” is from Tongues and Tails and not Whaler, it’s just so unbelievably good that it had to be the video that starts off your week. You’re welcome.