Sometime last year J.J sent an email introducing herself and mentioning an upcoming 2023 EP. I saw that the EP came out in January and marked to listen to it, but forgot when I was updating release lists. Now finally listening to it, it’s clear that J.J is a product of her environment and influences.
& again captures a smooth, melodic, and warm R&B and pop with hints of indie folk presentation. It’s polished, almost to a fault, and presents J.J as an emerging artist, who in my opinion, might not have found her distinct style yet. Listening to “Anyway” the composition and arrangement is a solid R&B and pop song that hits all the right points. All the necessary accents are placed perfectly along with an easy-to-digest chorus. It’s a great song, but very safe.
“Eyes That Don’t Love Me” starts with an acoustic guitar and J.J’s vocals. It slowly adds additional instrumentals to accent pieces of the verses. It’s another strong track that reminds me of HUNJIYA and Pictoria Vark. The slow tempo lets J.J comfortably expand her voice, especially during the bridge when she’s moving up and down the scale.
The third song, “Honest With Me,” could be placed between “Anyway” and “Eyes That Don’t Love Me.” It uses elements from both songs. I wonder if J.J likes slower songs because she’s exploring the world of ballads without fully committing. Also, there are some choral aspects to her vocals, not just because she’s layering her vocals, but how she sustains notes. “Honest With Me” is committed to the crescendo that it hinted at during the bridge, but loses power as it walks towards the song’s close.
“Again and Again” goes back to the acoustic guitar and vocal start, splitting the EP into two types of songs over four songs. It’s a pop-friendly, almost Disney soundtrack-esque style of song. It’s pretty interesting, but there’s some kind of limiter that’s being placed on the energy.
The four songs of & again definitely show that J.J can write and record great music. But for some reason, I don’t hear J.J on these songs. I hear outside influences, artificial limitations, and writing toward expectations instead of an EP that looks inward to find the strength to promote outward. There are points in songs that I wish J.J went overboard and blasted her vocals or tried stylistic ideas that might have failed. She has one of the most solid foundations I’ve ever heard, I just haven’t heard her own voice yet.
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