Although Icelandic singer Lauvini’s music sounds as wonderfully old-fashioned as Broadway music from the golden years, her role model remains Taylor Swift.
It’s not often that a teenager recommends a jazz recording to you. Moreover, a young man who stopped listening to jazz when he discovered Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” album on his father’s shelf at the age of five, “Smoke on the Water” had an impact on him as if it had been years of forced exposure. To Miles, Monk and Mingus are deleted from the hard drive.
But now: Lauvini. That’s what Läiväi says because she comes from Iceland, and her nickname is Jónsdóttir. Father from there, mother from China and a violinist in the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, hence the rigorous early musical education. Now 24, Lovi has moved to Los Angeles and is a singer, guitarist, pianist, cellist and, above all, a star. Her third album, “Enchanted” (Awal), has just been released.
Naturally, she gathers her followers on social media
She made her breakthrough three years ago with her first single on Tiktok. A few other successes for Gen Z: In 2022, it was the most streamed jazz act on Spotify with 425 million views. Billie Eilish, pop star Will Smith’s daughter Willow, and BTS’s V have become her fans and multipliers on Instagram (more than 1 million followers) and TikTok (more than 2 million followers). In very old fashioned fashion, she is currently on tour in Hong Kong, in Beijing performing with the Chinese Philharmonic Orchestra, and in November she will travel across the US, then to Europe in February. Everything is already sold out. In Hamburg, Berlin and Cologne, they are currently looking for larger halls because they have greatly underestimated the crowds.
She herself describes her music as “modern jazz”, although this should be understood in terms of cultural history more than musically. To an ear accustomed to modern jazz, “Enchanted” seems like a throwback to the golden era of the 1930s and 1940s, when jazz first entered the American cultural heritage via dance palaces, Broadway musicals and Hollywood films.
She plays the piano and guitar as confidently as her voice.
At first, the polyphonic intro to “Dreamer” sounds like the music of the Andrews Sisters and an old Disney soundtrack. The mood remains. There’s a lot of happiness in the timbre, which reminds us of the great bridges between rose-edged Broadway pop and modern jazz like Anita O’Day or Blossom Dearie. No blues there. All of this can be seamlessly incorporated into the soundtracks of movies and series like “La La Land” or “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which have saved the escape of classic musicals into the present.
Otherwise, Laufey has a gorgeous, smoky mezzo-soprano voice with a phrase that can fold pretty much any melody around the back notes like an origami figure somewhere between the sighing style of Diana Krall and the jazz twang of KD Lang. Except that her voice is almost forty years younger. She plays the piano and guitar as confidently as her voice. It all sounds so wonderfully traditional that you can sing along right away and then realize that Rondi writes all the songs himself. Torch songs, ballads with a big orchestra, bossa nova with plucked guitar.
Only Clint Eastwood’s favorite song is Errol Garner’s “Misty,” which he once based on for an entire movie. This is of course proof above all that she has truly mastered jazz and that it is not just a vehicle. The older the camel, the higher the bar. The incandescent force with which she creates this wave of new love from her script can certainly compete in the Premier League. Not in the Olympus of Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald, but certainly with everyone who has tried it since.
Importing Taylor Swift’s lyrical clarity into jazz
The song fits well with the rest of the album, which is primarily aimed on a lyrical and emotional level at all those who have just fallen in love and those who have been abandoned, and which is actually intended for the pop sphere. There is also a crucial difference between most others who are currently conquering jazz for themselves. Lovi approaches this genre not as a soloist and through improvisation as usual, but as a songwriter. As she says, she takes Broadway legends or idols Chet Baker and Ella Fitzgerald as role models, not Taylor Swift, who conquered the Gen Z demographic through the narrative power of country.
Swift’s greatest strength is the clarity of her lyrics, and Lovini now wants to try something similar with jazz. This can work because, like Swift, Mitski, or Olivia Rodrigo, she’s not just bringing pop music back to song structures that have fallen by the wayside in the hip-hop-and-dance-driven mainstream with the constant fire hooks of streaming algorithms. Another element of the singer-songwriter tradition is that there is not a single solo, not a single improvisation. Some intros and breaks, but they are functional elements.
She writes texts that you can find yourself in when you are going through the emotional storms of your teenage years. When the clothes don’t fit, no one can pronounce the weird name and the hair is stubborn because as a Chinese-Icelandic girl you don’t fit any mold, as in “A Letter to My 13-Year-Old Self.” When a man falls in love with another person, as in “From the Beginning,” and the only valid reaction is an eye roll: “She’s so perfect, blah, blah, blah.” And how the world dissolves into bliss when love succeeds, as in “It Must Be Love.”
This transfer of style and attitude from contemporary pop to jazz has worked very well for Kamasi Washington, who unleashed a wave of new enthusiasm for jazz among young audiences eight years ago. He transferred the principle of farce from hip-hop to jazz, that is, that the band consists of old friends and comrades, even if not all of them reached the same musical heights. Stylistically, it didn’t sound like hip-hop. And so you won’t hear from Rondi anywhere that she considers herself “Swifty.”
She does not declare that she will soon be able to fill large halls.
Hence Laufeny still dominates digital streams, which continues to be a crucial boost to the current music profession. It feeds its channels with this type of short video clips at frequent intervals, reducing the path from fan to star to a few milliseconds of delay in a fiber-optic network. She can do it, happily relaxing at home, and not only does she claim that she can also play orchestral concerts as a cellist and soon fill large halls as a singer, but she also takes out the trash or loads the washing machine.
He’s working. Laufey’s social media-driven career has taken her from a TikTok phenomenon in nursery school to world tours and performances with symphony orchestras in three years. Jazz for teens. It didn’t exist about 80 years ago, when underage fans fainted screaming at Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett concerts. About time again.
Luffy, The Enchanted Tour, March 5, 2024 in Lausanne