There’s been a recent trend in pop music of resurrecting a more evocative and more intellectually creative kind of diva, the likes o
f which we saw in artists of the early to mid-20th Century, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Currently, Norah Jones and Feist are the most popular examples of this renewed musical artist, but there are also lesser known names that deserve just as much attention. One of these is Jamie Leonhart, a multi-talented musician from New York City whose debut album The Truth About Suffering shows why modern pop music doesn’t have to be built upon the foundations of hip-hop or rock.
In fact, it’s very reassuring to hear catchy pop tunes with a strong jazz influence. Jamie Leonhart shows that the so-called “old school” way of doing things is not as out of touch as one might assume it is. She crafts songs that are just as catchy as any tune you might hear on the radio, yet they sound much more unique due to the jazz blueprint from which they are crafted. I would also argue that this touch of jazz allows The Truth About Suffering to have a much wider range of creativity than many other pop albums.
The album’s title track is a perfect example of why Jamie Leonhart and her album stand out amongst their contemporaries. It is typical pop in its structure, but the implementation of that structure is unique. The song starts off with very gentle piano playing until it slowly builds towards the peak of the chorus where it adds the beginnings of an orchestra. The brass and woodwind instruments in the background create a more symphonic ambience that in turn produces a more moving listening experience. This wide variety of atypical instrumentation provides a very fresh perspective on the pop format and makes the song that is much more engaging in this regard.
In fact, the whole album can be viewed in the terms I previously described: typical pop structure with a unique implementation. The technique varies from song to song. For example, there is a cover of “Rainbow Connection,” which we all remember being sung by Kermit the Frog (I could never figure out how a fake frog could be the voice behind such a great song). Anyway, Jamie Leonhart takes a very innovative approach to the tune. It has a very 60’s vibe to it as well as a semi-psychedelic quality evoked by the waltzy rhythm of the organ mixed with the rattling tambourine and the dreamy brass section. It certainly is an unexpected take on the song, one that I had to listen to a few times before I could admit to liking it due to stubborn devotion to habit. But this song does what a good cover should do in my opinion: it takes a great song that everyone knows and completely reinvents it into a completely different yet equally great song.
I highly suggest checking out The Truth About Suffering if you enjoy some variety in your pop music and if you want to support divas with a little more to offer in the talent department. Jamie Leonhart is not only a talented lyricist and a soulful vocalist, but she also plays the glockenspeil, the harmonium, the violin, the drums, and the melodica on this album. Shouldn’t someone like that be a lot more interesting than Paris Hilton?
Purchase The Truth About Suffering by Jamie Leonhart
Jamie Leonhart – Area
Jamie Leonhart – Rainbow Connection
Jamie Leonhart – The Truth About Suffering