JAX – Funny
By: Yaki Margulies
The six songs on JAX’s debut EP, Funny, cover the pop spectrum featuring upbeat dance songs, slow electronic sizzlers and piano ballads. With a powerful, smoky voice reminiscent of Daya (and various other modern pop luminaries) and a gaggle of top-notch songwriter/producers helming her songs, JAX unveils her full pop-world emergence on this sturdy EP.
After coming in third place during the fourteenth season of American Idol in 2015, JAX (real name: Jaclyn Cole Miskanic) was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at the age of twenty and forced to put her singing career briefly on hold. After undergoing radiation treatment and the removal of multiple malignant tumors, the East Brunswick, New Jersey native was excited to return to the music world with the cheerfully titled, Funny. Reflecting on her recent hardships, JAX sings about survival, strength and bitter love in this empowering set.
A prime example of this can be found in her first single from the album “Stars,” where JAX sings, “Hold up your fire / We can burn brighter / Brighter and brighter / Stars can shine,” a fine, if somewhat familiar and elementary, lyric illustrating her optimism. “Stars cannot shine without darkness,” she continues, over fluttering piano and slow, pounding drums, describing the resilience that comes from adversity.
Her second single “Kickin’ & Screamin’,” is the most straightforward dance/pop song on the album, which may also be its lowpoint. With standard synths and an uptempo club beat, a touch of hip-hop influence and lines about taking candy from a baby, it sounds like most other modern dance songs, striking a fairly unoriginal note on this otherwise inventive EP. However, the other dance song on Funny, the leadoff track, “Sleep Like A Baby,” is a little more intriguing. It starts with an eerie rendition of “Brahm’s Lullaby” before segueing into a sassy southern road trip song with tougher lyrics and wonderfully placed doo-wop backing vocals.
The final three songs on the album are all slower burning ballads, not providing too much variation in tone and tempo, but excelling in displaying JAX’s darker take on romance. “LSD” describes the addictive ebb and flow of an unhealthy relationship through the metaphor of drug dependency; “You’re my Achilles’ heel when you’re walking out the door / You’re toxic, you make me feel like coming back for more… You’re heroin, darling.” The classic rocker in me can’t help, but also appreciate the Beatles nod in the line, “Like I’m in the sky with diamonds.”
The title track contains her best lyrics, living up to the song’s name. In “Funny,” she describes another failing relationship, starting with a verse dripping in sarcasm, poking fun at her paramour’s bad behavior before slipping into a pre-chorus with the humorous lines: “Gosh, that’s cool that you’re thirty years young in Forever 21… And man that’s sweet how much you love your mom / Maybe she’s the one that you’ve been looking for all along.” In the chorus, she spells out the title, slyly telling her scorned lover “F-U,” a number of times.
The EP closes with “Wrong Girl,” another slow song about a nasty breakup, albeit this one more angry and gritty in her vocal delivery. “I am going to completely destroy you / you messed with the wrong girl / no use in hiding, I know where to find you.” Five out of the six tracks on the album deal with the fallout of spurned love affairs, and while listeners might wish for more variation, at least JAX does angry breakup songs quite well.
Funny is a strong debut from what may be a future pop big-hitter, showcasing her soulful voice and girl-power message. Her lyrics are fun and liberating, her style familiar, but with a unique spark that will hopefully grow as she records subsequent albums.
The Funny EP was released on Friday, January 27th, and is available now on iTunes.happywheels