Femme Fatale (The Velvet Underground song)

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"Femme Fatale"
Sunday Morning (The Velvet Underground record).jpg
Single b/w "Sunday Morning"
Single by the Velvet Underground and Nico
from the album The Velvet Underground & Nico
A-side"Sunday Morning"
  • December 1966 (1966-12) (single)
  • March 1967 (album)
RecordedApril 1966
StudioScepter,[1] New York City
Songwriter(s)Lou Reed
Producer(s)Andy Warhol
The Velvet Underground and Nico singles chronology
"All Tomorrow's Parties" / "I'll Be Your Mirror"
"Femme Fatale" / "Sunday Morning"
"White Light/White Heat" / "Here She Comes Now"

"Femme Fatale" is a song by American rock band the Velvet Underground from their 1967 debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico, with lead vocals by Nico.[1]


The song was composed in the key of C major.[3] At the request of Andy Warhol, band frontman Lou Reed wrote the song about Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick. According to Reed, Warhol said when asked what he should write about her: "Oh, don't you think she's a femme fatale, Lou?", so Reed wrote "Femme Fatale".[4][5]

The song was recorded with vocals by Nico.[1] Guitarist Sterling Morrison said of the song:

"Femme Fatale"—she [Nico] always hated that.[nasal voice] Nico, whose native language is minority French, would say "The name of this song is 'Fahm Fatahl'." Lou and I would sing it our way. Nico hated that. I said, "Nico, hey, it's my title, I'll pronounce it my way".[6]

"Femme Fatale" was recorded at the Scepter Studios in New York in April 1966 while the studio was still under construction.[1][7] It was released as a B-Side to "Sunday Morning" in December 1966.[8] The following year it was included in their debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico. A 1969 live recording of the song was included in Bootleg Series Volume 1: The Quine Tapes released in 2001.[1]

Critical reception[edit]

AllMusic critic Mark Deming thought that "Femme Fatale" was among the four best songs on the album.[9] Pitchfork writer Miles Raymer wrote: "the original mix of 'Femme Fatale' place a bizarre falsetto backing vocal from one of the male members high enough in the mix to put a listener on edge. And since the audio's taken straight from a beat-up acetate the whole fantastic mess is covered in crackles and hiss."[10] American music journalist Stephen Davis called "Femme Fatale" a beautiful song that portrays the vivid, conflicted and emotional undercurrents of 1966.[11]  


King Princess cover[edit]

The artist King Princess released a cover of the song in 2018 as part of the Spotify RISE program.[12] The cover uses the same lyrics and basic melody as the Velvet Underground song, but more aesthetically resembles King Princess's other works. The song was produced under King Princess's signed label, Zelig Music, LLC.


  1. ^ a b c d e Davis Inman (October 31, 2011). "The Velvet Underground And Nico, "Femme Fatale"". American Songwriter.
  2. ^ A. Zak, The Velvet Underground Companion: Four Decades of Commentary (Music Sales Group, 22 Dec 2000), ISBN 0825672422, p. 78.
  3. ^ "Femme Fatale". Musicnotes.
  4. ^ Michael Heatley, Frank Hopkinson. The Girl in the Song: The Real Stories Behind 50 Rock Classics. ISBN 9781909396883.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  5. ^ Bockris, Victor (1994). Transformer: The Lou Reed Story. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 107. ISBN 0-684-80366-6. Andy said I should write a song about Edie Sedgwick. I said 'Like what?' and he said 'Oh, don't you think she's a femme fatale, Lou?' So I wrote 'Femme Fatale' and we gave it to Nico. (Lou Reed)
  6. ^ Joe Harvard. The Velvet Underground's The Velvet Underground and Nico. pp. 98–100.
  7. ^ The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion. Canongate Books. 2007. p. 80. ISBN 978-1841959733.
  8. ^ Maximum Rock 'n' Roll. 1994.
  9. ^ Mark Deming. "The Velvet Underground: The Velvet Underground & Nico".
  10. ^ "The Velvet Underground & Nico 45th Anniversary". Pitchfork.
  11. ^ Stephen Davis (2005). Jim Morrison: LIfe, Death, Legend. Penguin Publishing Group.
  12. ^ Femme Fatale (RISE Recording), retrieved 2019-09-29