Music Review: Janiva Magness, Original

Published on July 25th, 2014 in: Current Faves, Feminism, Music, Music Reviews, Reviews |

By Melissa Bratcher


If there were any justice in the world, Janiva Magness’s newest, Original, would be as ubiquitous as Adele’s last album. You should hear her songs pouring out of car windows, women (and men) singing along, tears in their eyes from the sheer power of it. After all, Magness has an unbelievable voice, emotive and strong, and writes personal lyrics that speak to everyone. Janiva Magness, of course, isn’t marketed that way, which is a shame. She needs to be heard by a wide audience. She’s amazing.

The album kicks off with “Let Me Breathe,” setting the tone with confessional, honest lyrics and judicious use of a glockenspiel. The backup harmonies are smooth, but of course, the focal point is Magness’s gorgeous voice. Strong without pushing, forceful without strain, it’s a wonderful instrument. “When You Were My King,” co-written with the Australian songwriting team of Lauren Bliss and Andrew Lowden, begins with Magness’s goosebump-inducing a capella vocals. Her elegant phrasing on the verses is emotional and heartbreaking. Magness’s work on “Everything Is Alright” is incredible. Her voice is controlled and raw simultaneously on this warm security blanket of a song. The last note is a doozy; it’s just so lovely.

Janiva Magness is well matched with Dan Navarro on the duet “With Love.” Navarro’s voice is gritty and soulful and their voices and delivery pair delightfully. The effortless vocals on the quiet “Standing” are a bit reminiscent of Dusty Springfield. The lyrics: “I am standing here/even though I’m scared/If you’re coming back/I am prepared” are raw and straightforward.

“I Need A Man” features sharp drum work from Matt Tecu. It’s an edgy, driving shuffle with call and response lyrics, handclaps, and Magness’s blistering voice. “Badass” stalks like a jungle cat through the undergrowth. She sings like a raging preacher in a pulpit: “Cause I’m having too much fun/living my own life/’til the sun comes up.” That is the kind of preaching I can get behind.

Original is a brave, vulnerable record. Magness co-wrote seven of the songs, after having resisted writing for years. The lyrics are honest and open, and a triumph. Janiva Magness has a one of a kind voice: lived-in and bold, amazing in scope and range. It’s a gift. Original is artful and glorious, an inspired matching of great musicianship, smart production by Dave Darling (Glen Campbell, Brian Setzer, Def Leppard), and Janiva Magness’s impassioned instrument.

Original was released by Fathead Records on June 24.

6 Responses to “Music Review: Janiva Magness, Original

  1. Deborah Pierce:
    July 25th, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    Maybe Janiva needs to gain about 50 lbs and have a baby to become as popular as Adele? I listened to some cuts, and thought it was great but there was an underlying sadness in those songs. I think Janiva is in one of her life phases right now!

  2. Popshifter Review « Janiva Magness:
    July 25th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    […] “Magness has an unbelievable voice, emotive and strong, and writes personal lyrics that speak to everyone.” Written by Melissa Bratcher See Article on Popshifter Site […]

  3. Alice Culhane:
    July 25th, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    It is truly an amazing Album and your comments were right on the money!

  4. Donna Beller:
    July 27th, 2014 at 12:16 am

    Janiva, “Let
    Me Breathe” is very comforting and beautiful song. Of course, I love all your songs, but this one is … feelings, cause I have to make myself breathe at this time in my life after losing the love of my life….and sometimes it’s really hard to breathe. I love you precious cousin…..wish we could see you more often. Come spend some time with us if you ever get a break. Love you, Donna

  5. Melissa Bratcher:
    July 28th, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    It is definitely a ‘life change’ album, Deborah. A major event, trying to make sense of things, it’s so intimate it almost hurts to listen to. Thanks for reading, everyone!

  6. Alice culhane:
    September 1st, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    So how does Janiva get heard by everyone else….help her fans do it!

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