Carey Mulligan’s “New York New York”

Following on from my post about Kirsten Dunst, I thought I’d continue the theme of Jazz bar performances. This time the spotlight is on Carey Mulligan and her rendition of “New York New York” in Shame (2011). I know jazz isn’t for everyone and jazz bars might seem a bit boring to some people but I truly find at times that they can be really great for the soul. It’s amazing how certain music can just let you disappear from the hustle and bustle of the world and just allow for some escapism. For me, jazz does that (and probably also Indie/ Folk but that’s another story).

Back to the movie. Firstly, I’m a big fan of Carey Mulligan. She’s such a great actress and has a few vocal performances in movies e.g. Inside Llewyn Davis (2013). I was aware of this song before this movie. I had been listening to Frank Sinatra’s version for years since I was a child so I knew how uplifting and empowering the song was (Big Sinatra fan as well 😛 ). I think everyone has heard it. I do love that version, it really gets me motivated.

Carey Mulligan’s version is stripped back. We don’t have the brass accompaniment which really does take it in another direction. It’s so fragile and vulnerable. Mulligan’s voice is the centre of attention here and it’s really haunting and beautiful. It is accompanied by just the piano. There are gaps of silence which make her notes hang in the air. It’s almost as if there is an uncertainty which is the complete opposite of Sinatra’s determination. This really suits the meaning of the song. Where Sinatra confidently sings about success and getting to the top, Mulligan sings about longing. Her voice aches for happiness and she is beautifully vulnerable. It has a real delicacy about it that reflects the story of Shame as a whole. Her character, Sissy, possess these same traits. She is suicidal and there is always this fear of what she will do next. The plot of the movie has its characters teetering on the edge of destruction and yet they long for happiness and “normality.” The song really reflects this idea as there is this longing for something better and an uncertainty about the future.

A hauntingly beautiful performance that I will never forget.

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