“Magnetized” by Johnny Hates Jazz might be 2013’s “Album of the year”
Every generation has spawned its share of “one hit” wonders. These “one hit” wonders are fairly abundant commodities in the sphere of pop music. It is the “one album” wonders that are extremely rare. They are differentiated by their ability to drive success that hinges around their artistry (which manifests itself in the form of a very high-quality and cohesive album) as opposed to an ephemeral fad that hinges almost entirely around a single song. Johnny Hates Jazz were one such “one album” wonder. Their rapid rise up the singles charts and album charts globally suggested that they were poised for greater success. One cannot deny that their landmark album “Turn Back The Clock” was one of the most perfect albums of the 80s – right up there with Tears for Fears’ “Songs from The Big Chair“, a-ha’s “Hunting High and Low“, Wham’s “Make it Big“, and Michael Jackson’s “Bad“. The album’s appeal stemmed from the music’s contradictory elements – an uplifting and generally uptempo mood blended with an underlying melancholy that permeated through most of the lyrics on the album. It is fair to say that fans were hoping for more from these musical geniuses. Sadly, the Johnny Hates Jazz story ended almost soon after it began. The resurrection of this talented band also seemed highly unlikely. Fortunately, with the new album “Magnetized“, it is fair to say that those who hoped for more from Johnny Hates Jazz definitely had their hearts in the right place. The band did have more to offer – just 25 years later.
There are some inherent risks and uphill challenges that a one-album wonder faces when returning after a hiatus of 25 years – especially in a business that is fairly unforgiving of long gaps (to the best of our knowledge, only the sultry Sade gets away with this!) in musical output. First, there is an expectation for the band to put out one killer single that rivals the single that put them on the map to begin with. For Johnny Hates Jazz, that single was “Shattered Dreams“. Whether it is fair or not, there is an unspoken expectation for the band to put out a “Shattered Dreams” of 2013. Second, the band’s legacy revolves solely around one album. As a result, all it takes is one lackluster album to dilute that legacy. Third, the band is undoubtedly under pressure to retain all the elements of their landmark album. That is a tall order that does not account for the fact that 25 years have passed and that the band’s members may have evolved artistically in the interceding years. One listen of the album “Magnetized” would suggest that Johnny Hates Jazz was very well aware of all these risks and challenges. That might have more than a little to do with the fact that this album has released over a year and half later than it should have. It appears that each song has been scrubbed and polished several times during the period of delay. Fortunately, it has not been in vain. At this point, many might wonder if “Magnetized” is the true sequel to “Turn Back The Clock“. Fortunately, for the band, and fans, it most definitely is. More importantly, the band has delivered on all its artistic expectations (however lofty those expectations might have been) and a little more.
The album opens with its title track “Magnetized“. For those hoping for a “Shattered Dreams” of 2013, “Magnetized” is that song. The song is an invigorating cocktail of lead singer Clark Datchler’s smooth vocals, a soaring melodic chorus, a mid-tempo beat, and a layered production with that same glaze of pop brilliance that has allowed the “Turn Back the Clock” album to stand the test of time. The song’s “Middle 8″ is nothing short of delectable ear-candy. One listen of the song is all it takes for its infectious chorus to stick in one’s head.
Do we only live, to die
Or is it that our hearts are magnetized
And our worlds collide,
For a reason
Do we only live, to die
Or is it that our hearts are magnetized
Going round and round
Like a season
Release You” embodies that unusual blend of intense sexiness with a melancholic lyric. This song absolutely belongs to the playlist for a cocktail party (despite the lyrics). It could also double up as the last slow dance track of the party. Every second of the song oozes romance without being even remotely sappy. “Goodbye Sweet Yesterday” possesses many of the elements that make “Release You” a great song. Its finest moments are on its Middle 8. Songs such as “Ghost of Love” and “Road Not Taken” (a re-recorded version of a song on Clark Datchler’s solo album “Tomorrow“) veer closer to the adult contemporary flavor that characterized Clark Datchler’s recent solo work. It is safe to say those songs are more Clark Datchler than Johnny Hates Jazz.
There are a few songs on the album that suggest that Johnny Hates Jazz was not attempting to create a sonic replica of “Turn Back The Clock“. In fact, with these songs, the band has expanded on the notion of the quintessential Johnny Hates Jazz sound. On “You Belong To You“, the band makes its first foray into rock territory. On “Lighthouse“, the band emulates Pet Shop Boys-esque vocals layered over an indie electronic rock/pop sound. Both these songs are uptempo and sound nothing like the uptempo songs on their milestone album. “Never more” showcases the band venturing into British band Keane’s piano-driven adult alternative territory. Interestingly enough, the band manages to pull off these artistic experiments rather successfully – with “Lighthouse” and “Never More” being candidates for future singles. These songs do not sound like those by a band that is trying hard to be contemporary. They seem to have made this transition with relative ease.
The album’s closer “Eternal” is its heart-wrenching moment. Nothing on “Turn Back The Clock” came even close to being the achingly beautiful track that “Eternal” is. This down-tempo track with its lush string arrangements is inherently escapist – but it is a melancholic escapism that is bound to leave the listener longing for more. If there is one person that absolutely needs to hear this track, it is British screenwriter and director Richard Curtis – known for films such as “Notting Hill”,”Bridget Jones’ Diary” and “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. Curtis absolutely needs to feature this song in his next romantic comedy. “Eternal” has all the ingredients of a modern romantic classic. Clark Datchler has outdone himself as a vocalist on this song.
In a nutshell, this album has more than delivered on expectations. Johnny Hates Jazz has dug into the same creative well that made them superstars. Through “Magnetized“, Clark Datchler has definitely re-emerged as the fantastic vocalist that he is. The youth from his voice hasn’t slipped away. Not one bit. He still hits the high notes with absolute ease. 25 years has undoubtedly not chipped away at production maestro Mike Nocito’s ability to create a dreamy soundscape of sophistication that each of the songs on “Magnetized” drift through. Its a shame this album did not happen sooner and probably happened almost two decades later than it should have. But as the saying goes “better late than never”. This is a fantastic return for the band and an essential expansion of their musical legacy. Johnny Hates Jazz is not a band that is trying to ride the nostalgia wave. One cannot help but hope that this album will usher a second era of musical awesomeness from the duo. 2013 has undoubtedly been quite a year for new albums by veteran artists but it goes without saying that “Magnetized” leads the pack in terms of quality. In fact, it just might be the year 2013’s “pop album of the year”.
STAR RATING: 5/5
The music of Johnny Hates Jazz is a regular staple on our global radio broadcast. That includes material from the band’s “Tall Stories” and “Magnetized” albums. We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades. In addition to new music by new artists, we also feature newer material by veteran artists such a Johnny Hates Jazz, Duran Duran, Tears For Fears, a-ha, INXS, George Michael, Simply Red, Simple Minds, and Depeche Mode.
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