Spawned from the outskirts of London, singer and songwriter Jade Bird is among the ambitious musicians who have taken their talent and suitcases to the States in hopes to make it big. Impressively enough, at the age of 21, Bird made her dream come true and released a debut album on April 19 produced by the likes of Simone Felice (The Lumineers and Bat for Lashes) and David Baron.
After debuting her EP, “Something American,” in June 2017, Bird transitioned into a full-force artist, ready to take on the biggest festival stages around the world. Entirely self-written and seamlessly transgressive, her unique sound blends the best of indie, folk, Americana and country together, delivering both vulnerability and stick-it-to-the-man power.
Of course, there’s no mistaking the inspirations behind Bird’s lyrics and twang — Dolly Parton, Patti Smith and Alanis Morissette, I’m looking at you. Without a doubt, Bird’s greatest strength is her gravelly, charred voice that can’t be labelled but, without an unshakeable bout of confidence, there would be no beauty in her dominance.
At the age of 20, I am still figuring out the intricate parts of myself, but Bird seems to know what she wants and how it’s gonna get done, telling The Guardian, “I didn’t f—ing wanna do co-writes. I write great songs and the mistakes make them even better. No one else could write a Morrissey song. I don’t want a middle-aged white man telling me how to write my feelings. It’s not gonna work for me.”
The 12-song album showcases the multiple faces Bird has at her disposal — whether crushed by a failed first relationship (“17”) or basking in the freedom of her own youth and wanderlust (“Side Effects”) — the lack of a structured overarching theme on this collection solidifies Bird’s place among experienced musicians.
Her soul and everlasting love for music interlaces the tracks that flit between a handful of genres, highlighting the raw vocal talent rather than noisy background production and the unwelcome, whiny auto-tune heard so prominently in today’s hit songs.
On the first track “Ruins,” Bird flirts with a boastful chorus roaring through melodramatic lyrics, yet she prefers drawing back her ferocity in favor of a more low-key, easy-listening vibe. Continuing with this stylistic choice, “Lottery” sees Bird shooting for a spot on the country-pop charts — upbeat, charming and similar to other Nashville-borne up-and-comers.
It’s a clever song with lyrics like, “You used to tell me that / Love is a lottery / But you got your numbers / And you’re betting on me / You used to say that / Love is a game / But you got your numbers / And you’re betting on me.” These first introductory tunes give a delightful taste of what Bird is capable of without going too far off the deep end.
Compared to the borderline initial songs, Bird lets loose on the third track, “Motto,” as a steady drum beat enters and then all hell breaks loose. With a roar of thunder, her voice wakes up sleepy ears —reminding you that she is not another floaty indie artist, fearful of rugged ballads. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Bird commented on her versatility, saying, “I get the sense that if I push myself now and if I create a million different-sounding songs – I just feel that’s going to be such a set-up for my ability in the future.”
With grounded and attention-grabbing opening tracks, Bird serves variance in emotional storylines, tempo and range through the rest of the album. Her hallowing vocals and sentimental piano notes in the bookend track, “If I Die,” leave you unencumbered and feeling reflective, with lyrics like, “If I die don’t put me in stars / I’m never that far away from you / Put me in words, not hallelujahs / They come from the heart and they ring true.”
“If I Die” is perhaps the most personal of the 12-track collection, a dedication to her mom and Bird’s favorite piece, as she tells The Sun. “I am so close to my mum. But she said if something happened to me, she wasn’t bothered about sticking around without me. I wrote that song to say if I died, I’d want my mum to stick around,” Bird said.
Moments of uncertainty about life and love are found in jams like “I Get No Joy” and “Love Has All Been Done Before.” Although already famous and included on Radio X’s list of Best New Songs, Artists and Bands for 2019, Bird’s songs remind you that she is only 21 years old — still figuring out how to manage relationships and life.
“Jade Bird” is an impressive album written entirely by the singer (a rare commodity these days). While there is obvious joy, deep-seated ambition and an understanding of the limitations of fame found within Bird, it is the hunger for continuing what she has started that I fear might slip away.
With an increasing number of gigs and opening performances on tours with artists like Hozier, after just one EP and a debut album, songwriting may get to be too exhausting for the youthful artist but, only time will tell. For the future, I also hope that Bird stretches her songs to end at the three-minute mark, as “Jade Bird” is only 35 minutes long in total length.
Overall, for a debut album from a rising star, it is exceptional. The craftsmanship and execution in each song goes beyond Bird’s years and it is clear that there is no pinning her down as a single genre artist. Jade Bird is a raw and promising vocalist whose unapologetic attitude and dedication to quality songwriting and singing creates the perfect storm — roaring and simultaneously soothing.