Sunday, April 30, 2017

Jmaxx-Born To Be Famous (2009)


Some people are born to be wild.....and then some people are born to be famous. At least that is surely the aspiration of this South African electronic dance artist whom I just discovered who calls himself Jmaxx. With me still feeling very much in tune with the 80's synthpop sound, it's perfect timing on my part that I decided to do a bit of music exploration and ended up with this latest excellent find! And with this excellent find came two more unexpected surprises that absolutely made my day! The first is Jmaxx's fantastic cover of "Living In A Box"; I never thought in a gazillion years that I would never hear this memorable 80's classic originally performed by the British singer Richard Darbyshire, then with his group by the same name as the song. Hearing this today in a reinvented, spiffy post-New Millennium electro-pop format got me thrilled all over again! Only thing that's missing is the background voices chanting 'living' behind Jmaxx's delivery of 'am I living in a box?, am I living in a cardboard box?' in the chorus, but I can forgive that small oversight in favor of the cool new sound! I actually didn't recognize the song until I heard the famous chorus; very unusual of me to assume that a familiar title, which I glanced at before even listening, would be a different song altogether. And for the second unexpected surprise? Well that would be Jmaxx's remake of the equally memorable A-HA hit, "Take On Me". Always a good feeling when you recognize the chords and song structure before the first words even come out of the singer's mouth! This reinvented Jmaxx version is comprised of an ambient music arrangement that my ears interpreted as electronic pop with an alternative punk/psychedelic rock spirit, accented by Jmaxx's soft vocals and the distinctive island guitar melody that brings to mind those earliest days of bands like THE BEATLES. It's all different, but it works! Just those two surprises alone were more than enough to indicate that this album was made just for me! Elsewhere, however, he's revives the 80's spirit with the and gives it a fresh coat of paint even further with the cool dance breeze that is "Being On Air". In fact, the ambiance beneath the beat reminds me of the Limahl classic, "The NeverEnding Story", and I can take the idea of that dreamy Limahl classic even further and say this song is indeed like a never-ending dream, given the way the song just seems to glide on forever with the extended instrumental going all the way to end end (with some cool 8-bit video game effects thrown in for good measure). I'm almost positive I've heard "Tom's Diner" before; the familiarity clicked with the opening accordion instrumental, followed by the 'da da da da da da da' that became the catchy chorus, all put to a big bombastic beat with Jmax's hushed vocals delicately delivering the words throughout. Big and bombastic—that's also how he likes to do it up on the perfectly groovy club jam, "Chains" (it wasn't long before 'oh baby come and break these chains' got its chains hooked into me!), the title track and the mega-groovy lead-off track, "Moment", which has some instant wow power with the thumping bass line and the electronic glitz that drives the music along as he sings about a moment of passion that he wants to take to a higher level. Always having an ear for the strange and unorthodox, "Weekend Special" clicked with me because of its skippy, uneven tribal rhythm and it's part rock, part electro-pop arrangement. Takes a minute to get used to it, but it evolves into a cool track when the dance rhythm kicks into full gear and the song shifts to the slick rap break midway where he confesses that he feels like a boy toy, among other things. "Living In The Fast Lane": this one's a great mid-tempo jam with some hip flavor and some serious bounce to it, taking a break from the high-energy grooves of the dance floor. Jmaxx slows it all the way down on "True Love", a warming and uplifting song despite its deep, suspenseful groove, chilled to the max and a good place for putting his vocals on display. And it's that same warming, uplifting spirit on the concluding cut simply called "My Everything". Beneath the peppy, new wave-inspired, electronic pop/rock beat are his charming poetics that gives the song its shimmering glow. Jmaxx has surely achieved fame in his native South Africa; perhaps this feature presentation will help him duplicate that feat internationally:

1. Moment
2. Born To Be Famous
3. Weekend Special
4. Chains
5. Living In A Box
6. Being On Air
7. Living In The Fast Lane
8. Take On Me
9. True Love
10. Tom's Diner
11. My Everything

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