Written 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.