First released on June 13, 2006, Regina Spektor’s album Begin to Hope was the artist’s first to achieve widespread critical success; while the album debuted at number 70 of Billboard’s Hot 200, the hit song “Fidelity” allowed the album to peak at number 20. The album plays to a intricate, mellow, carefully worded sub-genre of indie-folk that creates a sound that’s as playful as it is personal. Spektor’s voice speaks to themes as common as falling as love and as dark as drug addiction; Begin to Hope employs such a variety of sounds and ideas that nearly any listener can find something profoundly moving.
The album begins with the aforementioned “Fidelity,” where upbeat pizzicato on the cello with a firm piano backbone recounts the narrator’s experience of falling in the love. Fidelity is as much about becoming intimate as it is the longing that one feels for another before they can come together. “I hear in my mind all of this music,” the narrator of the song declares, only to continue with “but it breaks my heart” in a bright staccato. It’s a song that speaks to the fear that someone feels while committing to someone, as much as it is about the overwhelming relief someone feels when they realize their vulnerability has afforded them romance.
Later in the album, Spektor carefully criticizes the emotional defensiveness of one night stands in her aptly named “Hotel Song.” Within “Hotel Song,” Spektor uses the analogy of a hotel as it allows someone to feel at home until they inevitably check out. The song is a bouncing synth piece lined with crisp percussion in which the narrator invites the listener into a personal worldview. Some of the first lines in the song are, “Come into my bed, I’ve got to know you,” which are quickly followed up by the narrator fiercely stating that “you will never be my dear, dear, friend.” The lyrics of the song stand to show the disjoint in physical intimacy and emotional compatibility during an instance of casual sex.
One of the most artistically interesting songs on the album is the grungy rock anthem “That Time” in which Spektor takes the opportunity to create the intense narrative of a couple that devolves through a drug addiction. The lyrics are set up as a series of parallel sentences in which the narrator of the song prompts her lover to “remember that time.” The song travels through the series of quirky misadventures that the couple goes through, but ultimately ends when the narrator somberly reminisces about “that time when you ODed,” and “that other time when you ODed, for the second time.” The song created by Spektor casts light on the highs and lows felt by the drug addicted couple and provides a keen insight into the intimate lives of drug users.
Despite being only 25 at the time of the album’s release, Spektor managed to create a piece that was both incredibly unique and notably diverse in its composition; the artist manages to appeal to an absolutely enormous demographic by applying her careful insight to such a variety of topics. The character of Spektor’s music has a sweet disposition, but also doesn’t shy away from heavy topics. Consequently, Begin to Hope is as poetic as it is powerful.