Shakespeare'd be more popular if everyone knew his "sister."

Aug 30, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:80's sound that still works today, great voices, many good songs

Cons:won't make you popular, hard to find, "one-hit wonder" band

Back when I was in elementary school, it was already important to "fit in." One way to do this was through music. In third grade, you had to own Debbie Gibson's album; Vanilla Ice in the fourth. These albums were like the boy and girl bands of today: fads. Sure, I mildly amuse myself with elementary memories when I listen to downloaded Debbie Gibson songs, and Vanilla Ice gives me a good laugh when I listen to his appearance on a live version of the Offspring's "Pretty Fly for a White Guy." But I would not call myself a fan of either of these artists.

At around the same time (ok, maybe a little later), I had another cassette. I would not have claimed it then for fear of embarrasment. Nor would I claim that I continued to listen to Shakespeare's Sister's Hormonally Yours even throughout high school. Only now am I passed that, "Gotta conform" stage of my life and am ready to admit that this album is totally incredible.

Shakespeare's Sister is not a person, it is the whole band, though it was one of those 80's groups that the back-up band (with lots of synthesizers) was pretty much obsolete. Still, there was not one "sister" but two frontwomen who were not related (even if I found their names online, I would not be able to talk about them as I am not sure who is who). The band was basically a "one-hit wonder" with one song in the top 20 (possibly even top 10). They did release another song to my knowledge, but in their entire career, Shakespeare's Sister only had two songs (both from Hormonally Yours) that played in rotation on MTV (and this was when you could turn on MTV any time of the day and see a video).

Where the band came from is basically a mystery. I have heard a couple of rumors that one of the women from the band was a cheerleader and back-up singer in that "Mickey, You're So Fine" song, and going to CD verifies did one of the musicians was part of Bananarama. Whatever happened to the duo (and band) is just as much a mystery. They were fine artists, but they seem to have disappeared as so many bands do.

Stereotypical Style and Poetic License Uniqueness

Hormonally Yours is a typical "80's pop" album. There are synthesizers and the drums sometimes sound like something I could create using Cakewalk in a couple of seconds. This was a time that musical genius really did not mean much, and I do not think that Shakespeare's Sister was extremely talented with real instruments. Fortunately, neither was their competition. If any bands compare to them, it would be bands like the Bangles or Belinda Carlisle in the instrumental aspect, though the vocals cannot be compared. (see previous description of this type of music if you never listened to these artists either)

But the band took this to an entirely new level. One of their biggest differences was the vocals that were way ahead of their time. This includes both lyrics and sound of the vocals. The lyrics probably were closer to the 80's Metal. Some of it was dreary and depressing, and most of their songs were not about some guy. Instead, they sang about more "on the edge" things like a guy who lies about a drug problem or some kind of spirit. The sound of the vocals was also quite different. Both women sang: one had a rather high, melodic voice while the other was more deep (she sounded kind of like a stereotypical movie witch). This is very different from other female singer bands at the time who all had singers that sounded basically the same. When the two women sang together, their voices contrasted, yet the song remained the same.

Some Songs

I will be less objective in this section and the next in order to be a bit more descriptive in my recommendation of this album (though it is probably fairly likely that I like this album).

Stay was this groups absolute biggest hit. It was also their first release, and it was an excellent introduction to the two female singers as the start of the song consists of the higher-pitched singer. She sings about a guy who seems (from the video and from my take on the lyrics) to be dying. The song is supposed to be heard by the guy who cannot respond. The refrain is "Stay with me..." The song is rather slow at first, but suddenly it speeds up and becomes a bit more "noisy" as the deeper voiced singer begins to sing. This part of the song seems to be from a voice inside the target male's head telling that he better "hope and pray to wake one day in your own world." The song is much more upbeat here (though somewhat scary), and with the combination of both parts, Stay could please both the laid back, mild type and the more energetic person.

Another great song on this album was The Trouble With Andre. This song is about Andre, who seems to be taking drugs. The refrain says that "the trouble with Andre is that he's a liar." The song carries a good message in my opinion (they don't think Andre should be this way). But it's sound is what gets me the most. In Stay one woman sang a few verses then the other with a blend of both voices in the end. In this song, the deeper voiced singer sings the verses as the other singer comes in on the refrain. Both women harmonize with the music, which is fast pop and a lot of "minor chords." (making it sound kind of depressing despite the speed).

For a "science fiction space movie" type sound (try pressing the keys on a keyboard with sounds not meant to mimic an actual instrument), Moon Child is a great song. This song is similar to The Trouble With Andre in the fact that both women sing throughout the whole song, though in this one the higher-pitched female is more dominant. The sound is also more up-beat and friendly in this song.

Basically, in the songs that the deeper voiced woman sings dominantly, the music is more dreary and when the higher pitched woman sings it sounds a bit more "happy," though this could be totally because of the voices and not the background music. Every song on the album is good, and the three I mentioned are just there because they are my favorite and give a great overview of the album's vocal styles. That is the thing about this album: every song is totally different, yet they have the Shakespeare's Sister Styling. The side without Stay on it (my tape is not around) is good because of </i>Stay</i>, but the best songs are the more obscure ones on the opposite side.

(**I also remember a song on the album, though which one it is escapes me, that has a synthesized opera sounding session (the higher voiced woman does it) like the one of The Fifth Element. This is an added bonus for those of you who have seen the movie.)

A little more commentary as I conclude

There are four main reasons why I would suggest this album to the target audience (which is anyone who can tolerate 80's/early 90's Female Pop Music with lots of synthesizers). First of all, it is one album that has not lost charm due to age. In fact, with the exception of a couple of synthesier sounds that get annoying, it is really hard to tell that this is not a current CD (though nothing like the popular female acts of today). They are close enough to 80's pop for those who like it, yet far enough away to be something different.

Secondly, this album shows that not all pop has to be happy music. Instead, just like any other genre, this can be something that anyone can identify to. Third, Shakespeare's Sister is one of the greatest vocal contrasts I have ever heard in my life. With one female who sings like she is in an opera and another who has a great voice that is quite eery, this album gives a perfect blend of vocal talent.

Finally, you probably can find this album for really cheap and will not have to worry about it being played every 3 minutes on the radio like some other "musicians" of today. Sure, no one will have ever heard of them, but you can fool people into believing that Shakespeare's Sister is the "hot new act" with very little trouble (you can even call them the "hot new act that is not totally annoying").

If you are a big fan of rap or metal and have no desire to expand your horizons, then avoid this like you would avoid the cliche "avoid this like the plague." It just is not for you. Otherwise, if you have yet to discover this no-longer going to be discovered band, pick up this album. I promise it will be worth the $2.00 bargain bin!

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