Sweet Soubrette – All That Glitters
New York City’s Sweet Soubrette is a ukulele-powered indie rock band with dark, poetic lyrics, songs that tell stories, and lush instrumentation. Sweet Soubrette’s edgy love songs explore troubled romance, works of literature, and the mysteries of existence, featuring the songwriting, vocals and ukulele of Ellia Bisker and a talented backing band.
In this exclusive weekly series for Feminist Wednesday, Ellia talks about some of Sweet Soubrette’s songs that take on themes relating to the modern female experience. Each song is paired with an image of Ellia by Brooklyn-based photographer Emily Raw. The two artists have been working together on various photo and video projects since 2007.
All That Glitters
"All That Glitters," from Sweet Soubrette's second album, Days and Nights, is so much fun to perform live -- not just because of its lively upbeat energy (also, hand claps) but because I get to embody a character who is so anathema to my own personal values: the gold digger. Though not exactly a femme fatale, she is nevertheless a star member of Sweet Soubrette’s collection of Bad Women archetypes, and there’s something oddly liberating about putting on her persona instead of just judging her or objecting to her existence -- maybe because my own sense of independence doesn't easily acknowledge any secret wish to be taken care of. I think a lot of strong women struggle with the opposing desires of wanting to be taken care of and wanting to take care of ourselves, and this song allowed me to explore that a little.
It was inspired in part by a woman I knew briefly a few years ago, a friend of a friend whom I didn’t know very well but heard a lot about, and she sort of fascinated me; everything I heard about her got under my skin. She was vain, obsessed with her looks, beautiful in a self-conscious way, and she had exploited that beauty: the rich older doctor she had met while waitressing in Texas was now putting her through school and bankrolling her apartment in Manhattan. I had never known anyone with an actual sugar daddy before. It offended my feminist sensibilities, to say the least. I thought the transactional gender roles she had bought into were not only retrograde and politically incorrect but downright unsavory. I started writing All That Glitters as a satire, almost as a dig. I imagined her hearing it and recognizing herself.
But something surprising happened when I was writing it: I found myself becoming unexpectedly sympathetic toward the character I had created. I found myself giving the woman who inspired her a little more credit too, for being more than just an opportunistic pretty face. In fact, she was intelligent, ambitious, and resourceful; and whatever I thought of her methods, she had used the tools available to her not only to survive, but to pave the way for a future in which she could do more than trade on her looks. Adela, wherever you are, this song taught me not to underestimate you. —Ellia Bisker