Song of the Week: “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

I should be more embarrassed to admit that my first exposure to this song was Bette Midler’s version in the movie Hocus Pocus. About a decade later my high school English teacher played that scene from Stanger Than Paradise in class for reasons I no longer remember. But Eszter Balint was swaying around the kitchen in a turtleneck, rejecting dresses, smoking too much while Screamin’ Jay cackled like a madman from her tiny radio. That was possibly the first time I understood the pleasure associated with discomfort and fear. That is the brilliance of this song. It is often covered and the results are poppy or schmaltzy or Bette Midler-y, but there is always a real and overt threat. Not just of entrapment and possession, but also of abandonment with Screamin’ Jay’s repeated insistence that we belong to him but only as long as he wants us, only “right now.”

-Christine Kanownik

Christine Kanownik‘s reviews, art, and poetry can be found in the past or upcoming issues of: Everyday Genius, Glitterpony, Little Red Leaves, The Poetry Project Newsletter, Shampoo, EOAGH, and Delirious Hem. In 2008 she performed a theater residency at the University of Chicago where the piece Memetic Jukebox was staged. She currently lives and works in New York.

Questions, compliments, (hopefully not) complaints? Contact Jackie Clark: jackie [at] coldfrontmag [dot] com.

See all Songs of the Week here.