Regina Spektor is a Russian-born singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. She gained her initial following in New York after self-releasing several tracks in the independent music scene, earning popularity through her beautiful arrangements and vocal talents. By 2004, she found mainstream recognition through a major record label deal. Interestingly, June 11 is Regina Spektor Day in New York City, and she was inducted into the Bronx Hall of Fame in 2019. Her incredible songwriting ability has astounded audiences for years now, and in this article, we’ll look at the 15 best Regina Spektor songs.
Fidelity is a song that is loosely based on the 2000 movie High Fidelity starring John Cusack. While she is known as a songwriter more than a singles artist, she was unsurprised by the widespread appeal this track had. It’s a song that explores the nervousness and apprehension that comes with falling in love, especially for people who deal with anxiety or have been through bad relationships. The worry of heartbreak can sometimes be too much to handle, making people hesitant to give their heart to another person.
It was released as the second single from her album Begin To Hope and was the one and only track of hers to enter the US Billboard Hot 100, a chart where it peaked at number 51. It also earned an entry to the UK Singles Chart and found further international success in New Zealand and Australia.
Us is a wildly beautiful song that condemns people who try to impose themselves on others, inspired largely by the vacuous themes of communism and the things Regina Spektor has had to deal with as an artist throughout her life. It’s a true punk track in that it sets up an “us versus them” scenario, though nobody wins this time.
Rather, the very people who place themselves on a pedestal eventually turn around and blame others for the ills of society. It was released on her major record label debut Soviet Kitsch and served as the fifth track of the album. It got a UK single release in 2006 and was notable for using a string quartet in addition to her typical piano and vocal arrangements.
Samson is one of the most beautiful songs you will ever hear. It was never officially released as a single, though many have called it Regina Spektor’s greatest track. For our purposes, the success of other songs places them ahead by a hair’s breadth. It was initially recorded for her album Songs, but it was re-recorded for her album Begin To Hope in 2006 when she had backing from a major record label.
It was notably thought by A&R representatives that the then-young Spektor couldn’t have written something so incredible. The track reimagines the biblical tale of Samson and interestingly has an accompanying music video despite not receiving a single release. It charted in four countries—Australia, Belgium, Sweden, and the UK—making it her most-charted song alongside Fidelity.
4. Laughing With
Laughing With is a deep dive into the nature of God and how people look at the being who created everything differently depending on where they’re at in life. It takes a bit of a jab at people who use religion to push their own ideals or agendas, stating that God is laughing with the people who make fun of those fearmongers.
It was released on Regina Spektor’s fifth album Far, serving as the lead single in 2009 and being put out on her MySpace page before official digital downloads went live. The song had a beautiful string arrangement that featured two cellos, arranged by Spektor herself, rather than a traditional quartet.
5. On The Radio
On The Radio is an incredible introspective song from Regina Spektor that deals with the true meaning of life and dissects that by looking at the events an individual goes through on their own. It includes many of her personal thoughts and discusses the death of a loved one and the loss of innocence as major life events.
It served as the first single to come from Begin To Hope and contains some interesting references in the chorus to the Guns N’ Roses song November Rain. Outside of the album, many people heard it in the show Grey’s Anatomy, the film Beastly, or the Netflix series Sex Education. It also made it onto the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number 60.
6. You’ve Got Time
You’ve Got Time is the one song from Regina Spektor that I reckon most people have heard before. As a songwriter, composer, and singer, her talents go far beyond just her vocal prowess. This track was specifically written for the Netflix Original Series Orange Is The New Black.
It was nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, and a chamber orchestra version was released in 2019 to coincide with the final season of the show. She gained inspiration from getting access to rough edits of the show early, giving her a chance to get to know the characters and get a feel for what the theme song of the show should be like.
7. Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas)
Don’t Leave Me (Ne Me Quitte Pas) is one of the best examples of Regina Spektor’s early work. It was included on her 2002 self-released album Songs and was later included on What We Saw From The Cheap Seats in 2012. It was assumed that the track was an English cover of the Jacques Brel song Ne Me Quitte Pas, but everything other than the titles of the two is completely different, down to the key of the song and even the timing.
The early 2002 version of the track was made with only Spektor and her piano, and the 2012 version included a drum machine. Both English and French lyrics are included in the song, and another version released by her online even replaces the English lyrics with Russian ones.
Better was included on Regina Spektor’s 2006 Bonus Track version of her Begin To Hope album. It’s actually one of her oldest songs, and the version on Begin To Hope features Nick Valensi of The Strokes on the guitar. While her love tracks are all great, this one is easily one of the best. The poignant, raw, and emotional lyrics reach a high point in the chorus as the singer endlessly expresses their inexpressible love to their partner. It’s a beautiful and heartfelt ballad that’s more than worth a listen or 10.
9. Two Birds
Two Birds is a beautiful allegorical tale of a sad relationship. One bird wants to fly away, but the other makes excuses to continue sitting on the wire. This is essentially a metaphor for when one person wants to move forward with a relationship, but the other resists.
The one trying to fly holds out hope for most of the song, though it’s revealed in the third verse that the other is a liar who only says they will take the leap but never will. It does have an open ending though, not revealing whether or not the resisting bird ever lets go and flies with the first bird.
10. Blue Lips
Blue Lips is simplicity at its best. Released on her 2009 album Far, it has one of the most beautiful piano riffs Regina Spektor has ever created. While it appears to allude to religious experiences by the main character of the song, he seems rather unfazed by any of it.
It’s a track that doesn’t reveal the real meaning behind it, yet is still able to make you feel sad and entrance you with its beauty nonetheless. Whether it is a commentary on religion or a song about life doesn’t really matter. It’s more than worth the time it takes to listen to it.
11. Small Bill$
Small Bills was released as the second single from her album Remember Us To Life. On the surface, it seems like a playful song. It deals with witty commentary about consumerism and the pursuit of wealth, with lines like “money is the reason we exist” leading the charge. But a deeper dive into the track brings a smaller tone to the otherwise carefree aura of the song.
The music video adds a lot of context, bringing up Soviet-era aesthetics to reference her childhood growing up in the Soviet Union. These are contrasted by references to advertising and capitalism, with some interpreting this as a track about how Russia has changed over the years for better or worse. But it also serves as a warning that the problems of the past could resurface and drive people to the brink yet again.
Few artists are able to capture heartbreak as eloquently and perfectly as Regina Spektor. Hero is the perfect song for anyone dealing with an abrupt or unexpected loss, as it captures the aftermath and emotions of that situation to a tee. She acknowledges the universal nature of people telling you “it’s all right” when your world is crashing down, turning it into a mantra to hopefully keep the pain at bay until she actually is alright.
But there’s another layer to it. We are all the heroes of our own story, so telling ourselves that it’s alright and filtering out any blame for ourselves is a form of denial that gets used as a coping mechanism. The simple arrangement of only her voice and the piano adds power to the song as well.
Braille is an astounding track from Regina Spektor’s 2001 release 11:11. It’s a haunting ballad about grief, loss, and the hope that helps you cling to life as you deal with those things.
The main focus is how hard it can be to move on after the death of a loved one, using Braille as a metaphor for feeling your way through life and learning to navigate the world without that person around, the way a person learns Braille to navigate without sight. The arrangement of the song is also beautiful, slowly building and adding strings and percussion instruments as the track goes on.
14. Ballad of a Politician
If you aren’t a fan of politicians and aren’t blind to the hypocrisy many of them have run rampant in their lives, Ballad Of A Politician is the Regina Spektor song for you. It serves as a scathing rebuke of politicians who promise change and deliver nothing new, something that happens all too often.
The track is also a rare change of tone for her, with her voice nearly shaking with anger and frustration rather than being controlled and precise. It continually calls out the empty promises politicians run on every election cycle and the lack of action from most once they get the vote they want.
15. Bleeding Heart
Bleeding Heart is an introspective and nostalgic song about the feelings and awkwardness of adolescence that can unexpectedly come rushing back to you. Anything can trigger those memories, be it a book you used in school or running into a friend from that earlier time in your life.
It can be weird, but it’s also wonderful in a way. Regina Spektor reflects back on her own life and some of these things in Bleeding Heart, and even discusses the cliche “if only that younger me knew where we made it today.”
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.