New Music Review : Jain - Zanaka

>> On her sophomore album, Zanaka, Parisian singer and producer Jain delivers a vast catalogue of influences while maintaining an air of spontaneity and feel-good youthfulness. With styles ranging from trip-hop, reggae, and electro drawn from the artist’s Moroccan roots, Jain’s glossy voice flies over gritty drum kits with bright horns and a steady guitar accentuating the multi-national influences in her style.

The album’s opening track “Come” introduces you to Jain’s charismatic attitude, her lyrics coaxing you onto your feet as she introduces you to the countless influences in her music. Stand out track “Mr. Johnson” packs a punch inspired by the corporate monotony found in Paris. Here Jain sings, “Oh Mr. Johnson / Let’s get out Mr. Johnson / Let’s be free Mr. Johnson / Let’s get out, before the night” over a heavy reggae beat that keeps your head nodding all the way to the bank. Other percussion heavy tracks like “Heads Up” and “Makeba” feature intricate arrangements of Jain’s bright harmonies and syncopations. The latter of these is an ode to “Mama Africa,” Miriam Makeba, an artist who played a large role in shaping Jain’s vocal aesthetic.

Still, while Jain delivers a beautifully produced album that seamlessly synthesizes multiple genres, some songs fall flat. These songs are more appropriate as background music for a trendy vintage clothing store than your house party. Despite her intensity, the acoustic song “All My Days” flops as a slow ballad thanks to the simple guitar riff that fails to sufficiently compliment Jain’s weaving vocals. Overall, it’s difficult to find a common thread between the contrasting styles aside from loose references to African culture, although to be fair, the songs span a seven- year period from her teenage to adult years. “Zanaka” means childhood in Malagasy (her mother’s native tongue), and despite the clear musical inspirations from across the globe, Jain’s lyrics fail to contemplate and examine this multiculturalism aside from purely addressing it. Given the clear musical cohesion of the wide spectrum of influences, it would be nice for Jain’s lyrical content to compliment this diversity.

Still, other tracks like “Lil Mama” cement Jain as a force to be reckoned with in pop music today, brilliantly using her voice’s elasticity to toy with the pronunciation of the song’s chorus. One could easily see Jain feeling at ease performing this track with other notable MC’s like MIA or Rihanna. Overall, Jain’s Zanaka delivers an astounding mix of rhythms from across the globe, packaged as a feel-good soundtrack to your summer. With all the potential demonstrated on her second album, Jain is set to continue developing her talent and climbing the charts with her melting pot of musical styles. <<