Ute Lemper Presents “Permanently Confused”

It might seem funny to liken an undisputed legend to an incendiary artist breaking into the business of making records. But even among the greats of international song and theater, Ute Lemper is an unusual figure. She’s never played by anyone’s rules but hers — and Time Traveler, her 2023 full-length, feels like the work of an artist just getting started. Here is a rare thing: a set aesthetically hungry, experimental, confessional, genre-defiant, and brave. Longtime fans and newcomers counted it among the best of the year.

As incredible as it may seem about a musician who has accomplished so much, maybe Ute Lemper is entering her prime. Time Traveler demonstrates that she knows exactly how to get a recording work, how hard and far to push, how daring to be, and how best to apply the lessons of a lifetime in music to the task of making a song sound simultaneously contemporary and timeless. She can make sophisticated jazz feel approachable, she can make pop feel grown-up, and she can impart a delicious undercurrent of tension and intrigue to the most beautiful ballad. Most of all, she knows how to tell a story — and brings it to life.

So much we might expect from the award-winning singer and actress, her high profile and more experimental projects such as collaborations with Roger Waters on The Wall, Elvis Costello, Nick Cave, and other rock auteurs who admired her work as an imaginative interpreter. Yet the startling thing about Ute Lemper is her unquenchable ambition. Less than a year after astonishing listeners with Time Traveler, she’s back with a deluxe edition of the set that appends some of the most adventurous music she’s ever recorded to its running order. “Permanently Confused” is one of those tracks, and in its absolute candor, passion, and its intelligence, it’s both an extension and refinement of the experiments that made Time Traveler an irresistible proposition.

“Permanently Confused” we speed through Ute’s personal memories of life and get an inside view. It is elegiac, satirical and reflective as Ute Lemper sings about what she’s lost in this world and discovered along the way. The video for the track is similarly dynamic. The star evokes her childhood, and the childhood of her offsprings, the constant evolution of everyone and everything. We speed through memories of many years on the most beautiful stages of the world. Transitions are told with great humour often in visuals that are sped up in time. Images of her hometown New York, the drummers in a subway car, the summer of the lockdown in 2020 and the” black lives matter” movement at the same time, all imbedded into the grove of her music. While there’s plenty of footage of Lemper onstage, most of the time, the camera catches the star in a meadow on the verge of the forest, singing under the midday sun. There she exudes a quiet confidence — and readiness for whatever comes next.

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