Home Read Classic Album Review: Nellie McKay | Get Away From Me

Classic Album Review: Nellie McKay | Get Away From Me

The New York teen introduces us to her unique talents on this breathtaking debut.

This came out in 2004 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Q: What do Norah Jones, Eminem, Doris Day, Tom Waits, Randy Newman, Fiona Apple and Rickie Lee Jones have in common? A: Nellie McKay has been compared to all of them.

That should tell you two things about this 19-year-old New Yorker: 1) She has a unique talent, and 2) She has an equally unique sound. The precocious singer-songwriter introduces us to both on her breathtaking debut Get Away From Me, which finds the jazz-pop wunderkind cutting and pasting together Tin Pan Alley songcraft, torchy jazz, smart-alec pop, hip-hop and bratty, foul-mouthed rap with all the restless energy of a kid scanning the FM band. That McKay manages not only to pull it all off credibly, but also to create one of the most distinctive and compelling debuts of the year, is credit to both youthful arrogance and her tremendous chops. Whether she’s fingering a deft solo, seductively crooning about her home town on Manhattan or rapping about her many faults on Sari, McKay makes it sound perfectly logical and stylistically natural. And at a time when most teenage performers are more concerned with dance steps and six-pack abs than musical credibility, that makes her pretty incomparable.