When I first saw Jade Bird live she was instantly likeable and her vocals were bigger than the room. I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing, let alone seeing in front of me. In an instant I knew that Jade Bird was going to be something big, but I didn’t realise it would be THIS!
As a new artist, Jade Bird was more or less marketed to the Americana genre, and yes she has those certain types of qualities for that market. However, when you get to listen to her self-titled debut album, there is so much more to her game, with really only one Americana sounding track in the form of Going Gone, which has a very catchy hook and chorus. A great sing-along if ever there was one.
Whether it was intentional to make an album like this, Jade Bird’s musicality seems very sure of itself. A quote from an interview with The Guardian springs to mind; “I don’t want a middle-aged white man telling me how to write my feelings. It’s not gonna work for me.” On listening to this album, sometimes you have to pinch yourself to remind yourself that Bird is quite a young soul but a young soul that has witnessed a lot. One reading her backstory, you can feel just how natural this process has come to her and thankfully she stuck to her guns, summed up perfectly with the line “I’m just a product of my emotions,” taken from opening track Ruins.
The album eases you in to everything Bird has to offer. We go in slow then build up with Lottery, which has a tinge of the country-pop vibe but keeps her gentle vocals in there. Then we step it up again with I Get No Joy and Uh Huh, which again are both ludicrously catchy. It is with these tracks that we now get to feel the full package of Bird, as she brings in breezy verses with gritty choruses, showcasing her vocal and lyrical acrobatics as she twists her voice around the words.
Maybe her most complex songs on the album are for these reasons. But then there’s the complexity in the simplicity that Bird brings to such tracks as My Motto with its lush piano lead and her gentle vocals at the start. This is echoed with Does Anybody Know, as it is just a guitar with Bird’s bare vocals. The same ingredients are evident with 17 but with a middle break of violins. Why do I say they are complex when they are so stripped back? I think the rawness offered here is the answer to that.
Side Effects stands out the most on this album, because it seems to follow a very different direction. Every song seems to have a Jade Bird element to it but this one, while still true to her sound, feels very Mirage period of Fleetwood Mac, even down to the backing vocals that come in on the last minute of the song. If Lindsey Buckingham came back to the fold then it should be Jade Bird featuring Fleetwood Mac on this track.
Jade Bird has given everything in this debut offering. She has said that, “every decision I’ve made has culminated into this magical process, just as every word I’ve written has spun into these songs.” I am so glad she stuck to her guns and made the album she wanted to make without outside influences of those that felt they knew better. It’s great that she zoned in on that Americana sound at the beginning but she has become more than that. Jade Bird cannot be classed as anything other than a fine musician that has found her craft from the outset. She doesn’t fall into singer-songwriter or pop or indie-folk. I go back and quote a line from Ruins; “I mean it when I say that I’m not sure who I am.” If she follows this then she will just be ‘Jade Bird’ as Joni Mitchell is Joni Mitchell or any other musician that people recognise as the artist being themselves and nobody else.