Donna Regina

The Decline of Female Happiness

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The German husband-and-wife duo of singer Regina Janssen and instrumentalist Günther Janssen has been working as Donna Regina since the early ‘90s, and it might once have been fairly accurate to call Donna Regina's music "synth pop," but they've certainly transcended the tag with latter-day releases like 2010's The Decline of Female Happiness. While there's no lack of electronic riffs and programmed beats coming from Günther's end, he employs just as much acoustic guitar and piano, and no one in one's right mind would consider these tracks dance music. In the past, Donna Regina has been repeatedly compared to electro-pop outfits like Saint Etienne, but by this point they're closer to the sparkling, semi-organic pop of, say, the Concretes. In fact, much of Female Happiness comes off like a 21st century Europop version of the partnership between Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick, with synths setting the mood instead of flügelhorns. In the darker, more mysterious moments, one might even be reminded of the way that Nancy Sinatra could coo sweetly atop a world of sonic unease wrought by Lee Hazlewood. Regina's voice may not have a ton of physical range, but it's surprisingly flexible when it comes to expressive possibilities. She can conjure up a cloudless, blue-sky day when the mood turns to summery pop, but she can just as easily offer an ethereal, semi-detached tone when things get more overtly Euro/electro-sounding, and she manages it all without any obvious show of effort. Her vocal delivery is consistently relaxed and smooth throughout the album, whatever the musical mode. "Let it be good and cool and true," Regina croons repeatedly on "Last Love," and that seems to be as apt a motto as any for what she brings to this musical partnership.

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