When I reviewed Jade Bird’s EP Something American back in 2017 I admired her talent and was intrigued to see what direction her career would take. She was being marketed at the time as ‘country’ – which seemed like a bit of a stretch for a girl from England singing soft rock/pop. However Yola recently proved that it is possible to take such influences and make them sound authentic. Both artists have now been nominated as ‘Emerging Artist of the Year’ at the 2019 Americana awards, the first Brits to gain nominations in that category since Mumford & Sons in 2011.
Jade Bird’s self titled debut album begins with Ruins, a jaunty acoustic song which showcases her raw, and at times, piercing vocals. It’s a love song about the complex nature of emotions, and her changeable feelings are reflected in the song’s switching tone. Lottery and I Get No Joy both continue with this mix of loud and quiet vocals. Both songs are exceptionally catchy and infectious, with unexpected turns that really hook the listener.
Side Effects is influenced by Springsteen and the driving rock beat works well, helping to balance that edge in her voice. My Motto is more of a straight pop ballad and actually I think this one is her best vocal on the album. Does Anybody Know is a simple acoustic song, more melancholy and introspective than the rest of the album, feelings which she pulls off well.
Uh Huh, Going Gone and Love Has All Been Done Before are indie rockers addressing relationships with a cynical eye for detail. The album finishes with a poignant piano ballad If I Die inspired by her relationship with her mother.
Overall what I really admire about this album is the fact that Jade is 21 years old and has written all these songs herself without co-writers (albeit she is working with experienced producer Simon Felice). She has unquestionable songwriting talent and the right kind of attitude to go far.
However I do think it would be disingenuous of me not to address a couple of issues I have. My main concern is how the production presents her voice on certain songs. Sometimes I loved the energy of her vocals, at other times the singing sounded forced and veered a little too close to hurting my ears.
And as for the previously mentioned Americana award nomination I find it a little bewildering since the only connection I can see to that genre is Bird’s use of an acoustic guitar. Mumford and Sons might have been criticised for inauthenticity but you can’t deny those first two albums were deeply rooted in Americana music. Maybe the lack of definition allows for a wide genre umbrella, but in Jade Bird’s case it seems to me to be a marketing tool rather than something that I can actually hear in the music.
Maybe I’m just feeling a little cynical about the industry right now as I see so many other Americana artists struggling to catch a break. I do admire Jade Bird for taking the opportunities she’s been given and using them to her advantage. There are some great catchy pop songs on this album and I find myself humming them randomly which suggests they have staying power.
Like the image on the album cover, Jade Bird’s musical style is intriguing but still a little undefined and blurry. I will be following her career path with interest.
If you’ve listened to the album let me know your thoughts in the comments or on social media.