Loved is available via:
10th August, 2017
WE might be heading towards the tail-end…
of 2017 - but that does not mean Jena Rose is going to idly sit around! A week from tomorrow; she will be announcing her full U.S. spring tour (2018) and that will include doing it with a worldwide platinum act, no less! The video for her forthcoming single, Sweet Love, will be released on Friday – the remixed version available next month. Right now, there is a lot of love being shown for the single, Loved – it seems love is a big consideration and focus for the young Texan songwriter. I will talk more about that (love) soon but, right now, I wanted to discuss female Pop singers in the modern market; the music coming from Texas at the moment; the pressure put on youth and young talent; expressing oneself through vocals and music; writing your own songs (and how rare that is) – how it can be possible to separate from the crowd in a genre that is defined by homogenisation and limitations. There is a lot to discuss regards Jena Rose but, when thinking of her, a couple of things strike the brain: she is very young and very beautiful. This is not a precursor to a discussion about sexism and age in music but Jena Rose has natural assets and positives at her disposal. Music – Pop, especially – still puts a lot of emphasis on looks and beauty – selling sex and promoting artists who have a sense of beauty and physicality. In the ‘Spotify Age’; a lot of artists – who do not have huge talent – have their aesthetics and body put ahead of the actual sounds. With Jena Rose, that will never be the case. She is still in her teens, yet, has an immense talent and determination that will see her go all the way. I have just come off of Twitter and seeing another terrific teen talent, Billie Marten, finish a tour of the U.K. I have discussed her a lot this year – having created my favourite album of last year, Writing of Blues and Yellows – but she is an eighteen-year-old who has immense beauty and charm – but lets her music and raw talent speak volumes.
I worry there is a lot of pressure and expectation put on the shoulders of young singer-songwriters – especially females. I am seeing a lot of tender/ingénue artists emerge who are moulded and directed by record labels. Commercialism and dollar-expectation mean, even before a note has been produced, there is a rigid game-plan and ideal for each artist. I am pleased to see songwriters who rebel against that and choose to define their career through their terms. Jena Rose is someone who could easily have fallen through the cracks of the machine. She has an immense beauty, kindness and sweet disposition. One can imagine, in the hands of the label men, morals and values being stripped in favour of exposition, sensuality and fame. In years to come, when her career hots up, there will be a lot of T.V./film attention coming the way of the Texan talent. She will be called upon for acting roles and the music side of things – having her records featured in productions. Later today – and not meaning to meander down the garden-path of inconsequentiality – but I am writing a piece about The Beatles later today. It is fifty-five years since their first number-one, Love Me Do. Even though, in 1962, there was little understanding of The Beatles and what they would become; one knew, on that first hit, they were going to be huge. The lyrics of Love Me Do might seem quite trite and cliché – compared with their later songs – but, at the time, it was new, revelatory and seismic. Now, in a comparable Pop market, how does one experience that sort of leap and progression? It is harder when there is such saturation and proliferation. Someone like Jena Rose excites me because, in a scene where there are so many manufactured artists, she is a natural and organic woman who is pushing Pop in new directions. One listens to a song like Loved and there are no processed vocals and preordained agendas – a song that comes from the heart; through the speaker, to the listener.
I am a little ambivalent towards Pop and tend to tread very cautiously. Sure, there are some brilliant artists around right now but I find, when looking for something deeper and less manufactured, one needs to look elsewhere. It is people like Jena Rose who are showing Pop can resonate and connect with those who want something more soulful and mindful. I have been musing about Soul and how the modern interpretation still retains ideals of legends of old. Jena Rose is not a pure Pop artist: there are soulful undertones and Country strands that mix into a dizzying and velvet blend. One hears teenage and explorative innocent, mixed with a vivacious and strident confident, that goes into her incredible music. I will return to this theme in the conclusion but, when thinking about the state of Texas, one gets definite impressions of what the music will sound like. Jena Rose hails from Plano which, as a city, has a unique charm. The Heritage Farmstead Museum and the Interurban Railway Museum – tracing the history of the Texas Electric Railway – sits in a city that is modern and forward-thinking. Among some of its notable residents – N.F.L. players such as Kyle Bosworth (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Jake Brendel (Miami Dolphins) – is a lot of inspiration for young songwriters. I guess we think of Texas as being an extension of Nashville: a hub for Country music and a very distinct sound. Unlike the Tennessee city; Texas is a lot more varied and deep than many would think. There are some brilliant Country artists like Erick Willis, Red Shahan and Flatland Cavalry –playing around areas like Lubbock, Austin and Dallas. Jena Rose is part of an alternative scene that adds colour and personality to the Texas landscape. Bee Caves, Jackie Venson and Tele Novella; The Bishops and White Label Analog are among those defining Texan music. It is a packed and multifarious state that is proving hospitable and popular with young artists.
I can see Jena Rose locating to L.A. in the coming years because it seems like her pull and ambition, coupled with the fact Los Angeles provides more scope and opportunity, might see her follow that course. I am not sure but, right now, she is among the prime and finest of Texas. I have talked about the modern Pop market and how much pressure there is on the shoulders of young artists. It would be incongruous to say every new artist is expected to act, dress and look a certain way; however, those artists who rise to the top are rarely in a negotiating position where they can express themselves in a particular way. Jena Rose, on paper, could fall prey to the neon clutches of the commercial jaw. She is gorgeous and has a sensitivity that seems beguiling: an intelligence and strength that few of her contemporaries possess. Rather than leer after big-label deals and have her voice processed and distorted – she is following her own mind and creating music the way she feels is right and honest. It is her integrity and determination that sets her apart from the masses – those who want to get millions of Spotify streams and create music that does not tax the brain. Music rewards those who are self-sufficient but, at the same time, there is a commercial perversity that sees a young star and takes them by the hand – leading them, like Sleeping Beauty being fed through an industrial-sized fan, into the murkiness of the anodyne and radio-friendly. Not that one has to sell their soul and dreams to be a success but, if one looks at stars like Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift, there is a particular dynamic and methodology that must be constructed. They are artists who have an army of songwriters, producers and talent working their music and pre-planning their promotion. The figurehead is often the sum of multiple organ transplant and transfusions – less of them in their own body; a composite of others and their ideas.
Jena Rose is a young woman who will be a fan, I assume, of artists like Lady Gaga, Rhianna and Taylor Swift: it is hard to avoid their influence and compelling voices. I am actually a fan of Lady Gaga and think she is one of the exceptions in the Pop market – someone who has more control than you’d imagine. Jena Rose acts as a beacon and shining light to those who feel the only way to craft identity and influence is to conform and surrender. Her incredible pen and voice has as much power and potency as any of the mainstream best – without needing dozens of others to make the music happen. One knows, as her career blossoms, there will be offers and nefarious tease; money and chances heading to the foot of her door – ways she can build her career and get further in the industry. I know Jena Rose is someone who will not be easily led but I feel she has the maturity and fortitude to find major success without having to promulgate looks, youth and the vanilla. Jena Rose is someone who has music coursing through her body and soul. It is an integral part of her being and a destination she was always going to fall in love with. She bonding with music’s purpose at the age of nine: as a shy child, as she says, other musicians’ songs/voice seemed to articulate a conversational confidence that she could not articulate. The dichotomies, ethos and rationalisations they vocalised seemed to touch the young Jena Rose. We have all been in that situation as children: unsure how to come out of our skin and connect with the wider world. To me, music has been a lifeline and island on which I can moor anchor and settle myself. Not being the most overt and sociable soul – hence, the reason most of my free hours are spent bonding through electronics – music, like Jena Rose, seems to provide a degree of acceptance and direction.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alexandra Thomas
In a way; it means I am less lonely and misunderstood: my favourite artists are able to keep me calm and comforted when I need it most. I am not sure whether now, as a teenager, Jena Rose has the same anxieties and reservations as she did back then – I assume she has only managed to get into music because she found inspiration through her idols. Jena Rose started playing classical piano at aged five (unbelievable!) and, at her Plano home; she would take a rather structured and rigid attack. Like all the great voice and songwriters through time: Jena Rose is someone who realised taking a conversational and dry approach to their craft would never break beyond the ordinary and boring. Classical attitudes are fine but they can be rather imperious, formulaic and stilted. The festination she felt was liberated when, a few years down the tracks, she took up contemporary styles. It goes, as the young artist recalls, a night when her parents went out for an evening meal. Alone with the piano and the limitless expanse of creative sky; Jena Rose began tinkering at the piano. The tentative kiss turned into a passionate and insatiable tussle. The creative juices flowed and, before she knew what was happening, a chorus, verse; bridge and structure was laid down – she has given birth to an actual healthy and boisterous song! Her music teacher was stunned and amazed her student could create something so quickly. Maybe it is her influences and heroines that have dictated her course and singularity. Rather than idolise the plastic and sugar-rich Pop artists; Jena Rose, instead, fell for the beauty and wonders of Sara Bareilles. Music, to the young songwriter, is a way to express herself and reveal her hidden messages, thoughts and feelings. As a young woman making her way through the world; she negotiates a labyrinth of romantic confrontations, misdirected passions and hard-hitting choices. She has a fallible heart and that is subject to exploitation and deceit – boys who will come and offer her the world; only to leave her broken and exposed at the roadside.
There will be princes who provide pure motives but siphoning them from the slew of toxic pretenders is a challenging (and daily) obstacle course. I feel a natural connection with Jena Rose because she has a faith and kindness that, one suspects, is easy prey to those who think of nobody but themselves. It is rare finding a young songwriter who takes their own lead and refutes the Disney villains who pose poisoned apples and chalices her way. I guess her location and upbringing is as powerful as any temptation to follow dollars and the mainstream. She was raised with music in her D.N.A. The fact she bonded with the piano as a young child means she already knew the music/direction she would pursue. I imagine there are some commercial artists in her record collection but I can imagine, if I visited Jena Rose’s home, there would be music (vinyl among them) from the finest and most original female artists from the past couple of decades. Even though Jena Rose has a modern fabric to her music: one hears embers and spectral suggestion of iconic Folk and Pop singers. It is important we proffer artists like her so the scene can afford itself greater naturelessness, meaning and personality. I listen to a Jena Rose single and am instantly absorbed into her world. She never speaks with cliché vowels and predictable tenses – her words could be cribbed from her diary pages; unfettered and fantastic thoughts that make you yearn and support the heroine. I will explore her music more, soon, but, right now, I wanted to look at a couple more themes: love and its popularity; an American songwriter in the modern world. Love, as a meme and fountain, is the most popular and predictable for songwriters. There is a reason why that is so: everyone has encountered love and a sense of passion. Whether you are a frustrated bystander – an unrequited desire that goes unfulfilled – or immersed in a burning, white-hot relationship – it is a thing we can all relate to, in some degree or other.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alexandra Thomas
Jena Rose is young and experiencing the confusions and turbulence of tender years but has – as we hear on Loved; she brings fresh hope and aperture to the subject. Jena Rose has a lot of love for her family and loved-ones; she is someone who is potently aware of all forms of love and its hierarchies – how it can nourish the soul or destroy the heart. Forthcoming single, Sweet Love, is – not the Anita Baker track – but the desire for something simple and un-destructive. Maybe she has witnessed too many fools and ill-conceived relationships. One wonders whether the song is borrowed from the remnants of her own years: maybe it is an iteration of another songwriter; something drawn from fiction, to an extent. Jena Rose, as I have discussed, is able to define her depths and words through the lead and guise of other artist. I am not sure whether her approaching single is a declaration for compassion and a true love. Maybe she is looking at her favourite songs/artists and employing a degree of personal detachment. It will be fascinating to see the song come through but, in Loved, one hears a very personal and particular story emerge. You can look at those two songs and see the word ‘love’ appear on both occasions. It can be dangerous relying on that word as a certain musical curator might discard such songs; assuming they will be asinine and commercial. Jena Rose is not somebody who recruits menial verses and easy choruses: her music rises from her heart and is as unique as one could hope to find. It is unavoidable using the word ‘love’ as the songs concern passion and relations in different forms. New material will use new terminology but, right now, there is the compunction to document what matters most to her: expressing thanks for faithful love; the burning need for a secure and simple love. I have mentioned The Beatles and, if we are returning to that well, their first few singles did not stray far from that word – Love Me Do, She Loves You and P.S. I Love You and were all early singles. Those looking for relatable and familiar themes; mixed with wise and unexpected lyrics should align themselves with the Texan-born songwriter. Hypnotic vocals and EDM elements; daring melodies and independence distinguish the young songwriters form her peers.
Loved begins with piano notes that put me in mind of two things: Joni Mitchell and a night-time adventure. I discover feint scents of Mitchell, as explored and revealed on Blue. The combination of stately definition and sensitive curiosity come out in the early piano expressions. Many songwriters might come in with a sweet and saccharine key that would seem, in their mind, to define the song and what needs to be said: love is the most powerful thing and I am in a happy place. Instead, we hear something more contemplative and questioning. There is a kiss of the moonlight that emanates from the fingers. Jena Rose takes the listener to the outside as the stars twinkle; cats creep with devilish glee whilst the aroma of jasmine lingers like a haunting refrain. One is powerless to resists the swarm of images and poetry that rips the clothing and teases its tongue down the body. A sinewy and graceful river-flow gets the song off to a flying start! The black-and-white of the piano keys is reflected in a video (optimal viewing-listening conditions involves one watching the video) that sees the heroine yearning and pondering in equal measures. It is hard to escape the huskiness and womanly prowess of the vocal. One might expect one so young to have a more twee and cutesy sound. We get something, instead, breathy and coffee-flavoured; a tone that can cause shiver and buckle the heartstrings. Our heroine ponders rainy days and crying her tears away. Previous Jena Rose songs have hinted at what is coming through in Loved. Here; the young woman watches the footage of old love flicking from the screen. The brief flings and false-start endeavours; the promising romances and near-misses all conspire and entangle in a frisson of broken glass shards and new promises – the heroine wanting to move on and not be subjected to the kind of boy who leads her astray. It seems, now, there is someone in her mind that differs from the clowns and clones. Maybe he is more grown-up and realises there is more to Jena Rose than looks and sex appeal.
She is a deep and considerate human with so many sides and fascinating personality traits. She has a vulnerability but, even though she is young, there is a burning flame inside her that flickers with maturation and sagaciousness. She does not usually let her heart run ahead of the safe route. Like a curious child racing towards a sweet shop (better images allude me); Jena Rose is venturing into new and exciting areas. She has never been in this position where a man/boy has arrived and keeps her awake at night. The voice never sticks with a single sound and line. High-pitched notes swoon with the darker and huskier elements. It is a cacophony of emotions and variations that go into an enigmatic song that alludes to a new and precarious bond. Things are fresh and, normally, the young woman does not open her heart so fondly and readily. The caution bulb is on but, more powerful than that, the blood runs hot and the loins – in a non-salacious manner – burn and lust. Jena Rose keeps things settled and considered; never becoming too infantile and sexual with her words and mindset. When she is employing wordless vocals and teasing her voice; I hear whispers of singers like Whitney Houston. There is something soulful and unadulterated about Jena Rose’s voice. Inspired by the queens and giants of Pop and Soul; one witnesses the spectrum of colour and personality come through in her voice. The video’s hero has short/cropped hair and looks like the kind who could lead a girl astray – one assumes the song’s actual inspiration is not the actor who features in the video. In any case; one is hooked by the tongue-licking and ethereal softness of Jena Rose’s voice. Recalling the boy and how they came to be; one hears that sigh and fondness ooze and stem from the flowering and sweet vocals. Our heroine feels lonely and is fatigued pushing love away. The boy makes her feel free and liberated; easy and comfortable in her own skin.
If one assumed a structured and predictable piano-led Pop song was going to continue; they will be surprised by a new, vivacious side-step. Jena Rose’s vocals are processed, cut and vibrated as wasp-sting electronics and cracking vinyl sounds give the song a fresh and rushing buzz. Things get harder and hotter as the pretence and seduction is replaced with something to-the-bone and confident. The girl becomes a woman and steps out with red lips and painted nails. In a black dress and a smile that suggests a kiss is not out of the question – we see the rapid and uninhibited evolution from shy and questioning girl to a lioness woman who knows what she wants…and is not stopping at any red lights chasing it down. This boy has awakened something shy and reluctant in her heart. The EDM touches take the song from the boudoir and parlour of sophistication and romance to the bright-lit, neon-flickering rapaciousness appetite of love. I will not go as far to say sex overrides the mood but there is a definite castigation of the old ways. The vocal flecks and breaks up like static and strobe lighting. It is hard getting to grips with the whirlpool of voices and notes that rush into the mind and run in different directions. It is a stark contradiction to the measured and compassionate refrains we witnessed in the early moments. The lovers are “never getting older” as they embrace one another and make promises – maybe, keeping their hearts true and not straying from one another. At every avenue; Jena Rose never loses sight of herself and the way she has been treated in the past. Her present is enforced by the zombies of the past; she is not willing to close her heart to the possibility of change – her new guy seems a refreshing and fragrant king who can vanquish the horrors of dark days.
PHOTO CREDIT: Alexandra Thomas
The verses return to the more demure and tamed sound that we experienced in the opening. Even though the pace is calmer and less rampant; the heroine lets her voice swim like a fish and fly like a bird. I hear touches of modern and classic Soul greats. One witnesses someone who has a real conviction and confidence in her voice. Learning music from a young age; it is understandable hearing a singer who can project the maximum amount of wonderment and range in her voice. Backing vocals – Jena Rose sparring with herself – puts me in mind of Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child. Queen Bey and her commanding presence can be found in Jena’s Rose fuc*-with-me-and-I’ll-end-you spirit. Even though the girl is in control; there is plenty of faith and trust in the man. Before the next pistol-whip chorus; the heroine talks about pushing the boy away. She has done this for so long but one feels that was not a lack of attraction and respect. Having scars and tattoos from previous failures; she is not going to run into a relationship without knowing whether it can stand the test of time. Things seem clearer and there is a real understanding the cloud has been lifted and there are no hidden skeletons. Loved moves from Folk/Soul ease and beauty to EDM rampancy; to soulful R&B back to EDM – the chorus swaggers back in and provides more clarity and relevance than its maiden voyage. The contrast between the red dresses/black-dressed heroine – symbolising love and death, to a degree – and the young woman sitting serenely at the piano gives the song two concurrent and intermingled personalities. The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde capriciousness of love see the sexy and sweating vixen part of the same body as the mature and sensitive girl. In that case; it is a song that can appeal to the mainstream lovers and those who want to unearth a song they can dance to – Loved can fit into club rotation and score a sunny drive down an open highway. Also, for people like me, there is the intelligence, quality and songwriting brilliance one experiences in the great Soul and Folk songs. Jena Rose keeps her lyrics simple but mixes that into a melting pot where quixotic notes and spellbinding shivers lead to an incredible and memorable song.
I am looking forward to seeing Jena Rose rise and progress. I have mentioned her upcoming our announcement and a surprise platinum artist who will be joining her. She has Sweet Love next week and has an E.P. arriving soon. Lost at Sea, a piano ballad dedicated to her grandmother, is another song we can expect to see soon. With Grammy-nominated writer, Druski; she has seen those songs given an extra sheen and elevation. The beating heart and core is from Jena Rose herself. She takes control of the songs and ensures they are what SHE wants to hear. The inclusion of Druski is there to give the production and sound an extra layer of professionalism and silk. Next year will be the busiest and most important for Jena Rose. There will be the E.P. and new material; touring commitments and the chance to explore more of the U.S. I wonder whether there will be West and East Coast dates among her scheduled appearances. I can imagine Jena Rose is someone who has one eye on the Californian sun. Not in the sense she will abandon her roots and embrace something cheap and alluring – more, there is a larger market and wider community she can get involved with. Texas is a wonderful state for music and a part of the world producing great artists. I said I’d talk about songwriters in modern America – and forgot to – but Jena Rose, in a lot of ways, defines the complexities and nascent mysteries of the American songwriter. On one level, she is a pure and sweet-cheeked woman. There is caramel, sweetness and chocolate streaming from her gorgeous tongue. One gets a real allure and comfort from the tender tones of Jena Rose. Beauty and fashion are a part of her personality: there are few as striking and entrancing as her! Sexuality is not a part of her marketability: instead, a maturity and intelligence are more powerful muses and contours. There is contrast in the soul of Jena Rose. She is someone with a passionate heart and welcoming soul. Jena Rose wants love and acceptance but has encountered some rogue lovers and cheating minds.
The corpses of those experiences go into her music but, from the ashes of ruinous love, comes a songwriter keen to enter a new phase and find safety. There is something very mature and assured about Jena Rose. Maybe there is still a youthful naivety that means she will always wish for the best – when form and reality shows there are more needles in the haystack than there are bandages. Jena Rose is relatable to young fans and those who want accessible Pop and contemporary sounds. Songs like Loved have a real sense of melody and can be extrapolated by those who prefer their Pop music instant and warm. On the other side; there is real talent, artistry and intellectualism working in every fabric of the song. Jena Rose, in spite of her limited years, is someone who has confidence and an established sound. There is no denying the confidence and sense of place she has already. I would love to see her come to London as I know there is a fanbase in the U.K. There are a few venues I can suggest she comes and places. The Lexington and The Finsbury are two smaller venues that would welcome her in. Manchester’s Deaf Institute would be a good fit – the city, as a whole, is somewhere she would fall in love with. London is a big market and a place she could do very well in. Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen has a modern and cool vibe; Union Chapel has a grandeur and beauty that could perfectly bond with Jena Rose’s wonderful music; The Bedford (Balham) is a great stage – all corners of the capital could be explored and exploited. I suggest Jena Rose go beyond London as there is money and opportunity in other cities like Leeds, Brighton; Manchester and Glasgow. If she did a bit of research, and polled the people, she would get a sense of the demographics and fan-numbers waiting for her. Whatever her U.K. plans; we might have to wait until she has finished seducing America. Loved will lead to Sweet Love: maybe the young heroine is entering a creative phase where she wants to be settled and not play the silly games of teenage love. It is thrilling watching the young woman spread her wings and open her plumage. There are few Pop artists like her and, in a music scene where there are too many familiar faces; it is rewarding and sensational seeing Jena Rose…
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