Friday, February 10, 2012

Just Antony

Approximately 14 years ago 'Antony and the Johnsons' was born. A band build up around the person of Antony Hegarty. Often referred to as just 'Antony', the British singer who has lived a good part of his live in the U.S.A. has become a concept in the alternative music scene. Not only his incredible voice but also his unrelenting generosity in lending its unique sound to other artists has contributed to his fame. Collaborations with other musicians are indeed numerous. Lou Reed, Björk, Rufus Wainwright, Boy George, Hercules and love affair, Joan as police woman and Marianne Faithfull are some of the artists who he worked with. 

Next to these musical collaborations, he also conceived some soundtracks for movies.V for Vendetta, a 2005 movie by James McTeigue, featured 'Bird gehrl'. For the biographical picture about the life of Bob Dylan I'm not there, he did a cover of the famous 'Knocking on Heaven's door'. A couple of times, he even made a movie appearance. Once in Animal Farm by Steve Buscemi, singing 'Rapture' and once in Wild Side by Sébastien Lifshitz singing 'I fell in love with a Dead boy'. 

Antony & the Johnsons, 'I fell in love with a Dead Boy', Wild Side, 2004

Antony Hegarty's transgender sexuality and his eccentric appearance have been subject to both criticism and awe. He has emerged as a symbol and protagonist for the free experience of sexuality. Antony speaks not only to the transsexual and gay community but to everyone who experiences sexuality and identity 'differently'. He encourages a tolerant view on the world. 
Respect for femininity, but also transformation, death and (destructive) love are themes that often emerge in his music. 'Cripple And The Starfish', my personal favorite, accurately portrays the emotions lived through in an abusive relationship.

Antony and the Johnsons with Metropole Orchestra, Cripple and the Starfish, Amsterdam 2009

Antony and the Johnsons' oeuvre is quite limited, with only four lp's in their name. The first album carried the name of the band and didn't get too much publicity, although it's my favorite. The release of their second album 'I'm a Bird Now' in 2005 got them the Mercury Prize.
In 2009 his third album 'The Crying Light' rose to the first place on the European charts. A lot of the songs are a comment on the critical condition the earth is in. For example, 'Another World' can be seen as a cry for a global change in the attitude towards and the preservation of nature.

Antony and the Johnsons with Metropole Orchestra, Another World, Amsterdam 2009

Like his presentation on stage and his voice, his musical compositions are very theatrical. The abundant use of strings and changes in pace and volume make for some dramatic moments. 

Antony's interests extend beyond the mere realm of music. In 2008 he wrote a song to accompany the collection of Prada during the season's show. A year before that he collaborated with one of my other favorites, Hussein Chalayan, for the making of a 'fashion film' called 'Readings' for the Paris fashion week.

Music: Antony Hegarty, Fashion: Hussein Chalayan, Video: Antony & Nick Night, 'Readings', 2007

The shattered and fragmented nature of the music could have inspired him for the last album that came out in 2010, Swanlights. The title song on this album has a likeness to the composition for 'Readings'.

Antony & the Johnsons, 'Swanlight', 2010

To me not only Antony's music but his whole persona touches on subjects that are important and often overlooked in this society: The soft, tender, vulnerable, feminine side of society: The undefined, the vague, the non-judgmental. 
He proves that rebellion, protest and change don't have to go hand in hand with violence or aggression. He's a martyr, not male, not female, just human.

The Mere Alchemist

Antony in concert with Metropole Orchestra

Antony & the Johnsons


  1. Amazing artist! Another great collaboration: Beautiful Boyz by Cocorosie! Still one of my favourite songs.
    Thanks @ the mere alchemist for hightlighting this wonderful person's contribution to music and the world.