Icelandic-Chinese singer Laufey (pronounced “Lay-vay”) has debuted with yet another innovative spin on the Jazz genre, captivating her audience with her soulful voice and relatable storytelling in her second studio album entitled Bewitched released on Sep. 10 through the label AWAL.
Consistent with her past releases, Bewitched explores the themes of romance across the entire spectrum. In just 14 tracks, Laufey touches upon everything from lovesickness to heartbreak, ensuring that there is something for listeners’ every mood. Laufey strikes the perfect balance between modernity and antiquity in a style reminiscent of the early 1900s by pairing present-day lyrics alongside orchestral accompaniment with an old-school, homey allure. In doing so, she has successfully managed to accomplish what few artists have done before by resurrecting interest in a style of music that was once declining in popularity.
Making music that appeals to the masses is not easy, but it seems that Laufey has successfully cracked the code by releasing hit after hit. Although some critics describe her music as being “lifeless” or “repetitive,” it is undeniable that Laufey’s interlacing of Jazz and Classical elements in her signature sound has set the stage for the future of “modern Jazz,” representing a big leap forward in the music industry.
Growing up in a non-traditional household surrounded by her parents’ love for big bands and orchestral music, Laufey was involved in the arts from the start. She spent her childhood between Reykjavik and Washington D.C., impressively earning the honor to perform alongside the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and compete as a contestant on a reality show for singers entitled The Voice. After high school, she attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music and furthered her musical studies. When the pandemic hit, her instinct to share her musical talent on social media led her first single Street By Street to chart at number one on Icelandic Radio, which permanently altered the trajectory of her life before long.
Upon the first click into the album, listeners are introduced to a new dimension, Laufey’s dimension, with just layers of her raw vocals and nothing more. The absence of her signature instrumental accompaniment in the opening lines of Dreamer, “Let me be a dreamer / Let me float,” creates an “isolating” effect that entrances the audience so that they focus solely on the music, the feel-good beats, and are encouraged to free themselves of their worries. In essence, she sets the tone of Bewitched by leading the audience to envision themselves in a “Dreamland” where they are free to decompress and escape from the real world, even if it is just for a little moment. Laufey later sings, “No boy’s gonna kill that dreamer in me,” reaffirming the idea that maintaining high standards is not a crime and that nothing is going to stop her from being unapologetically herself.
However, things begin to take a turn when the next track starts to play. In Second Best, Laufey reflects upon the past and expresses her regret for giving her all to somebody who never did so in return through the lyrics “Oh, you were my everything / I was your second best.” Yet, in just the mere lines that follow, “Fallen in love and left you behind / But I’m still in love with this mess,” she toys with the idea of moving on, seeming to be both stuck on her past and ready to kick start another chapter of her life at the same time. Her conflicting feelings, a complicated clash between love and hate, is put on full display and built upon throughout the next few tracks, and it is only when Must Be Love arrives on the scene when listeners are finally able to see her knees-deep in the healing process through her budding feelings for another.
After another winding road filled with ups and downs, the star of the show From The Start finally finds its place in the album and reintroduces a much-needed feeling of lightheartedness found in the lead-off track Dreamer, but this time in an even more upbeat fashion. Although the track’s message still plays around with themes of “unrequited love” and “hopelessness,” something has definitely changed: instead of giving up on the object of her affection, she yearns for the chance to confess her love. The lyrics “I sound like a loon / But don’t you feel it too / Confess I loved you from the start” perfectly capture the unrelenting mindsets of teenagers in the 21st century when it comes to romance, showcasing the reasons behind the track’s popularity: many have experienced the denial of reality by clinging on to small shreds of hope when none exists, and Laufey’s echo of the popular experience makes the track so relatable and enjoyable to listen to.
In an orderly fashion, the track Bewitched marks the end of the album in which Laufey returns to what she does best: singing about a picture-perfect romance and filling her listeners’ minds with idealistic thoughts to highlight that dreams, regardless of how unattainable they might be, still have a possibility of coming true.
The spell that Laufey initially casted upon her audience is finally broken as the journey comes to an end, but the same does not hold true for her effect on the scope of the music industry which is everlasting. Her groundbreaking contributions in the Jazz genre have reignited the interests of listeners from a diverse range of generations, officially cementing her as a permanent icon of this era. As die-hard fans begin to speculate what new tracks the popular idol will roll out in the near future, it is safe to say that they will surely be bangers and that we will definitely not be disappointed when the time comes.