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“Jazz” tends to conjure images of dinner parties, smoky speakeasies, or soulfully mature lyrics crooning stories of lost loves. Three years ago, if you asked the average Gen Z individual, you’d find that jazz was not likely one of the featured genres on their Spotify Wrapped list at the end of the year. However, jazz pop artist Laufey has revitalized jazz, repackaging it with a modern and youthful twist. Laufey’s sophomore album, “Bewitched,” is the cozy fall soundtrack enthusiasts have been waiting for. “Bewitched” utilizes the traditional soft snares, guitar strums, and delicate cymbal crashes of jazz to share familiar young adult vignettes of falling in love, developing crushes, and dealing with heartbreak in a new way.
Opening with the track “Dreamer,” “Bewitched” begins on an upbeat note. Behind the jovial and playful rhythm is a message of self-love. Interspersed with humorous lyrics about moving “into a / cloud, into my fantasy” are promises that “no boy’s gonna be so smart as to / Try and pierce my porcelain heart.” The song’s opening harmonies are reminiscent of The Chordettes’ “Mr Sandman,” blending a vintage feel with the modern message of empowerment that “Dreamer” expresses.
After a strong and self-compassionate opening, “Bewitched” begins to touch on various stages of love. “Must Be Love,” “While You Were Sleeping,” “Serendipity,” and “Bewitched” all present various perspectives on falling in love. What’s clear from the album’s sixth track, “Lovesick,” is that Laufey is not afraid to sing freely about the not-so-good sides of this experience. The song takes a turn from the typical rom-com storyline as Laufey leans heavily on a pain inherent in lovesickness, almost imagining it as a veritable illness. Lyrics like “Let me in your atmosphere/ Inching closer, but I fear/ That I’ll love you so much, you’ll slip away” and “Dreams are nightmares in my bed/ Since the last night that I spent with you” express love’s slightly darker side. This darkness however, contrasts with the more pop-based jazz melody that runs through the song, akin to the soft-rock tunes of the Beatles and Elton John. Lyrics describing nightmares and fears of lost love are typically paired with sad and slow melodies, but “Lovesick” is more a more powerful take on a ballad.
“From The Start,” Laufey’s TikTok hit and the most streamed song on her album so far, with 2.2 million views on TikTok and over 110 million streams on Spotify, captures the bubbly feeling of having a crush with an upbeat bossa nova swing. The song’s playful rhythm accompanies carefree lyrics that should resonate with any “delulu girlies” — as characterized by Laufey in a TikTok — holding onto unrequited love. “Misty,” the next track on the album, is Laufey’s recording of a classic jazz standard — a more mature story about the pursuit of love. “Misty” is most famous for being sung by jazz artist Sarah Vaughan, but Laufey’s modern take on the song refreshes it for younger audiences and listeners new to the jazz genre while still maintaining the soulful sound that tried-and-true jazz enthusiasts love.
One of the strongest features of the album is Laufey’s versatility. Although categorized as a jazz album, “Bewitched” leans into other styles of music in a way that elevates the love stories Laufey tells and thus offers something for everyone to enjoy. Aside from the more pop-forward style of “Dreamer,” the album features “Second Best,” an electric guitar focused piece; “Nocturne,” — a two-minute piano instrumental featuring musical themes from each of the other tracks in the album; and “California and Me,” — a collaboration between Laufey and the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Along with Laufey’s versatility, however, comes a distinct musical character. Laufey’s music is recognizably her own, but it occasionally means that her songs can sound similar to each other. Tracks like “Must Be Love,” “California and Me,” and “Bewitched” all feature Laufey’s classic soft ballad style, and this similarity to tracks from the artist’s older albums and EPs might cause listeners to write Laufey off as disappointingly predictable.
In a 2021 interview with The Forty-Five, when crediting the classical music and jazz influences in her own music, Laufey shared that her “goal is to make these genres less scary and take the seriousness out of them because in the end, these are timeless forms of music.”
With this album, Laufey achieves that goal. “Bewitched” gives listeners a chance to engage with stories conveying feelings and experiences they can relate to, while gently exposing them to styles of music that may be new and unfamiliar to them. As if under a spell, listeners will fall in love with “Bewitched” and jazz’s re-entry into the world of modern music.
—Staff writer Selorna A. Ackuayi can be reached at email@example.com.
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