FEATURED EP: Oscar Jerome

London-based musician and singer-songwriter Oscar Jerome released his eponymous debut EP last week. After spending years grafting in the music scene and refining his talent, the young artist unveils a work consisting of four weighty tracks that are certainly a testament to that.

It’s hard to define Jerome’s sound as it’s a peculiar mixture. The influences of jazz, hip-hop and soul are clear, but it’s more aptly described as alternative. With contemplative and obscure lyrics, and arrangements that have carefully been thought out, he creates something original and mysterious that captures your attention from start to finish.

Casually, Jerome rap-sings on the up-beat opening track “Give Back What You Stole From Me,” featuring a cool, repetitive hook; whereas on the slower “2 Sides” words slip out, which, coupled with the moody tone, forges a hazy recount from what feels like a dark room in his head. When he shouts sometimes his voice becomes fiercely coarse, and throughout the EP Oscar’s delivery sits comfortably in amongst the instrumentation of electric guitar, drums, bass, saxophone, trumpet, keys – there’s even a string quartet on the last track “Evil Song”.

Produced by Jerome, Jay Sylvian, Thomas Heigl and Maxwell Owin, this EP feels like getting lost in a mystery novel. The ambient and abstract nature of his compositions is dream-like and well worth a listen. And if you’re slightly bewildered or dazed after the first listen, that’s a good thing – it means you should give it another spin.

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FEATURED SONG: JoJo – “Mad Love.”

All is right in the world. Order has been restored. Finally, thankfully, gladly after 10 long years, it can be said with near absolute certainty that Joanna “JoJo” Levesque is releasing her third studio album.

There’s a lot that’s happened in the gap between The High Road (2006), which was JoJo’s last official LP, and the forthcoming Mad Love (out 14th October). In short, while dealing with legal troubles – without a doubt the main reason for her lengthy mainstream absence – she never let that stop her from creating and releasing music to her fans. She put out the mixtapes Can’t Take That Away from Me (2010) and Agápē (2012), followed by the EPs LoveJo (2014), III (2015) and LoveJo2 (2015).

Then in the late summer of 2016, (having signed to and settled in at new label Atlantic), JoJo dropped “F*** Apologies” featuring Wiz Khalifa, which was announced as the lead single from the long-awaited new album. The cavalier and unrelenting pop/R&B track garnered a positive response and an official video was uploaded to the singer’s YouTube account. Since then she released another three songs as promotional singles; “FAB” featuring Remy Ma, piano ballad “Music”, and one I thought I’d give some special attention to: the bold and impressive title track.

Have a listen…

First off, it’s nice to hear popular music written in a time signature other than 4/4; the song swings and bops along to the picking of the electric guitar, stomping kick drum and wailing backing vocals. There’s this old school love-song vibe going on, but it’s not tired or dated. Resounding horns, thudding bass notes, sprinkled with keys and ringing bells send you right back to the 60s and early 70s, before you return to the hook of churchy backing vocals enchantingly chanting “mad love.”

The song was co-written by Levesque along with Nikki Flores, and Josh Monroy who produced it. After the first two records of tracks mostly written for the singer, it’s great to hear JoJo’s literary voice again. The lyrics are filled with graphic images like, “you took a knife to my heart / cut out the rational parts” and, “twisting like wire in your arms / a dangerous place for my heart.” The statements are significant, metaphors sharp and honest as she fully and perfectly describes a love that is grand, insane, and at times a little torturous.

JoJo’s head voice is light and capable, breathing the notes in the first chorus with sweet ease. Then out of nowhere this big, powerful voice climbs, belting out declarations with no reservations, and then skids down the jazz-blues runs that she’s been performing in that very same vintage-soul manner since she was about five – and I do mean literally. You can hear her experience; the 25-year-old’s vocal expression seems that it should belong to someone of at least twice her age – and it has seemed that way since she first came on the scene when she was half her age…

“Mad Love” is already a signature song in her return to the mainstream. With a deep and magical sound, and a manner and presence all her own, you can see why she chose it for or wrote it to be the title track. It makes a bold statement, that JoJo – the artist who, for her knowledgeable and loyal fans, never actually went away – is indeed back. And here to slay.

The album Mad Love. comes out Friday 14th October.