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The Broken Romances of Pink Martini's 'Eugene'

'Hey Eugene'
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Hey Eugene, you probably think the new Pink Martini album is about you. And you're right.

Take the title track:

Hey Eugene. Do you remember me? I'm that chick you danced with two times Through the Rufus album Friday night at that party On Avenue A ...

The song is about a guy who promised to call lead singer China Forbes after meeting her at a party. But he never did.

The story of a romance that doesn't work out makes its way through much of the Hey Eugene! CD. Pink Martini translates this simple theme into different kinds of music — even different languages.

The band, led by Thomas Lauderdale, consists of a dozen highly trained musicians, many of them symphony players, who play songs inspired by 1950s pop tunes, or foreign movie soundtracks and even TV theme songs.

The chorus at the end of "Hey Eugene," for example echoes of 1970s sitcom staples, Good Times and The Jeffersons.

There are songs in Arabic — "Bukra Wba'do," ("Tomorrow and the Day After"). And Portuguese — "Tempo Perdido" ("Lost Time").

Performing in NPR's Studio 4A, the band played two versions of "Tempo Perdido." The first was the original fast tempo — too fast, Forbes says.

"When you make an album, you realize that really fast songs are tedious upon repeated listen," she tells Steve Inskeep. "Once you get through it you never want to play it again. That's just not what we go for with our albums."

But the band does want its listeners to keep reliving the heartbreak of Hey Eugene!

But if the real Eugene is paying attention and changes his mind, Forbes says she hopes he doesn't try to call her.

"It is way too late," she says.

Will he even know that the album is about him?

"Oh, he'll know," she says. "He'll know."

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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