Shawna Virago, Objectified
by Jim Provenzano
There’s no mistaking that many of the themes in local transgender singer Shawna Virago’s CD Objectified are autobiographical. The lead lyric in three of the CD’s songs, “Objectified,” “Transsexual Dominatrix” and “Butterfly” is the word “I.”
Taking that into consideration, anyone who hasn’t heard Virago live should understand the personal perspective portrayed in her music. Think the limited vocal range of Nico with a more subtle level of intensity. Pointed sociopolitical perspectives are countered by simple song structure and listenable folk-rock stylings with strummed acoustic guitar, light percussion and occasional harmonica accompaniment.
Virago’s barely veiled contempt for rightwing politics, as in “Dead War Hero,” are countered with a fun rockabilly tempo. Virago’s personal strife and abhorrence for religion are laid plain in “Someone Down There Likes Me,” with references to atheist Easter egg hunts and some disparaging maternal remarks. Somehow, these negative themes are given an uplifting tone, as in “Million Dollar Day.”
But when personal identity politics take precedent over artistic development, the resultant art can be limited to fans who identify with its creator. Virago reveals her cards in the lyrics, “I have this deep obsession/I gotta pimp my oppression.” Her being transgender is the sole point, not a springboard for further musical or lyric development.
Having heard Virago live, it’s nice to have these songs collected on a CD, but it lacks the empathetic energy of her supportive audiences.