Regina Spektor, ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’ – Song Review
“I love Paris in the rain,” the Russian-born, American-raised Regina Spektor sings repeatedly at the end of ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas),’ a bouncy, infectious French pop ditty that serves as the second single off her latest full-length platter, ‘What We Saw from the Cheap Seats.’ It’s an odd ending to a song seemingly about bustling street life in New York City. But then again, the song itself is a bit unusual — in the most compelling of ways.
The story behind ’Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’ is a long one, but definitely worth repeating. The song was originally written and sung in French in the ’50s by the Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel, and has since been covered numerous times in several different languages. Memorable takes include those by Sting, Nina Simone, Barbra Streisand and Cyndi Lauper, plus the pop standard ‘If You Go Away,’ an English version of the tune made famous by singer/poet Rod McKuen.
It doesn’t end there. Spektor herself previously recorded an adaptation simply titled ‘Ne Me Quitte Pas’ on her second album, 2002′s ‘Songs.’ That take is just Regina’s voice over a piano line, but is no less memorable in its simplicity.
For ’What We Saw from the Cheap Seats,’ she keeps the same song structure, but fills out the instrumentation with drum machine beats, lush child-like keyboards, uplifting horns and other assorted brass. But the focus is clearly Spektor’s gorgeous, airy voice, which flows freely through lilting inflections and across varied cadence as she switches between singing in French in English.
None of which goes very far in explaining the emphatic joyfulness of the song, which manages an upbeat, almost tropicalia vibe as the seemingly nonsensical lyrics roll by like riding a bus through crowded New York City streets on a snowy Saturday afternoon in December. It’s hard to figure out exactly what’s going on, but that doesn’t matter. The important part is that you are along for the ride.
Listen to Regina Spektor’s ‘Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)’