What happens when you mix Harry Connick Jr., Frank Sinatra, Norah Jones, and put in a hint of pop/rock flavoring? You get Jamie Cullum!
Jamie’s unique blend of contemporary jazz is at its best with his major label debut (his first album Pointless Nostalgic was released in 2003 by Candid Records), Twentysomething. The album is a mix of jazzy updates of classic standards, and new material penned by Jamie and his brother Ben Cullum.
The album starts with These Are The Days, a breezy Billy Joel-esque track written by Ben. The piano based song has a light and airy feeling to it, and it’s a nice listen. The title track follows, and we get a glimpse of Jamie’s songwriting skills (as he wrote the song himself). Lyrically, the song is quite a treat. Jamie explores the “quarter-life crisis” that many people in their early twenties face in a comical way (“After years of expensive education/A car full of books and anticipation/I’m an expert on Shakespeare and that’s a hell of a lot/But the world don’t need scholars as much as I thought.”). The song is also great musically, with a bouncy beat and a nice bit of scatting towards the end.
Wind Cries Mary marks the first remake, which is a bit unexpected. But within the first few minutes, we see that Jamie’s slowed down version of the classic song by Jimi Hendrix actually works well. And though I’m a big fan of John Mayer, I must say that Jamie’s rendition blows his out the water. All At Sea was Jamie’s first single, and it’s easy to see why. The song (in which Jamie explains to his girlfriend that he needs time alone to contemplate their relationship) holds a simple, yet catchy tune, and Jamie sounds great as he sings the well-crafted lyrics (“If you don’t need it every day/But sometimes don’t you just crave/To disappear within your mind/You never know what you might find”).
Lover, You Should Have Come Over is a remake of a Jeff Buckley song, and is easily one of the strongest tracks on the album. The song opens with simple piano chords and a drum loop, which sets the melancholy mood. Jamie sings with just enough yearning and torture in his voice to make this the perfect song to listen to when you’re feeling down. Singing In The Rain is another remake, though you’d hardly notice until the chorus. The song is reworked in a way that makes it almost entirely different from the original and gives a fresh spin on an otherwise overly done song.
I Get A Kick Out Of You might be one of my favorite songs on the album. This is an upbeat and fun rendition of Cole Porter’s classic, and the piano solo in the middle is wonderful. I especially love Jamie’s sound effects that go along with the lyrics, “Some get their kick from cocaine” (which consist of him pretending to snort cocaine), and it goes along perfectly with the fun and bouncy mood of the track.Blame It On My Youth is one of the first songs I heard off of this album, and I’ve loved it since then. Jamie comes off as very earnest as he sings, “If I cried a little bit/When first I learned the truth/Don’t blame it on my heart/Blame it on my youth” and the simple piano progression that backs up his vocals gives it a classy touch.
Jamie even tackles Radiohead with a remake of High & Dry. Though I’ve never head the original, I really like Jamie’s version. The mixture of piano and a throbbing drum beat is nice, and again Jamie’s vocals are superb as he sings the chorus. The song has a very relaxing feeling to it and it’s a great addition to the album. It’s About Time actually took a bit of time to grow on me (no pun intended 😉 ). The song starts off very slow, and doesn’t go anywhere musically. The lyrics, again written by Ben, are about being ready to meet that “special someone”, and are the major appeal of this subdued track.
But For Now is another track that can be boring unless you’re really in the mood to listen. This track is mostly about Jamie’s vocals; we get a good example of his tone and range here, and he sounds great. Musically, the track is very slow and again, doesn’t go much of anywhere.
The pace picks up again with Jamie’s version of I Could’ve Danced All Night. Though the song isn’t one of my favorites, it’s still another fun track with a nice jazz/pop beat. Next Year, Baby follows, and happens to be another one of the stand out songs. This was also written by Jamie, and you can tell by the tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Jamie starts the song of by presenting a list of all the things he promises he’ll change by the next year for his girlfriend. But by the chorus he admits, “Resolutions, baby they come and go/Will I do any of these things?/The answer’s probably no.” He finally promises that he’ll get around to telling her the way he truly feels about her, next year. What makes this song so great musically is the change in dynamics; the beginning is very soft and mellow before going into a Latin-influenced salsa during the bridge, and then ending off on a mellow note again.
The album ends with What A Difference A Day Made and a bonus track, Frontin’. The former happens to be a bit of a bore; it sounds like a mix of But For Now and It’s About Time. The latter, of course, is a remake of the Jay Z & Neptune song. Of course, you might be skeptic before the first listen, but Jamie actually pulls this off perfectly. He slowed down the song and plays the piano, and though you’d never envision a jazz singer singing a hip hop song, Jamie surprises us all.
Twentysomething is a great collection of modern jazz and classic standards. Jamie Cullum is a great artist who is unafraid of tackling even the greatest classics and making them his own.
1. These Are The Days
3. Wind Cries Mary
4. All At Sea
5. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
6. Singin’ In The Rain
7. I Get A Kick Out Of You
8. Blame It On My Youth
9. High And Dry
10. It’s About Time
11. But For Now
12. I Could Have Danced All Night
13. Next Year, Baby
14. What A Diff’rence A Day Made
15. Frontin’ (bonus track)