It sounds more mystical than intended when you say that you’re the kind of person who goes off of vibes, but it doesn’t make it any less true. From the moment we started talking, I could feel intuitively that we were on the same frequency. The first thing JaJa and I discussed, in typical British fashion, was the weather and we both expressed a desire to go back to Nigeria so we can enjoy the climate over there.
I’m not sure which one of us it was, but the movement #ENDSARS was mentioned, and we shared a mournful look with the recognition that we had the same love and sadness for our country. She told me, "obviously I'm not happy about what's been happening over there, but I'm glad that people are speaking up. As soon as I can go back, I'm going home".
JaJa’s music is a lot like that - full of joyful melancholy. We first spoke about her single Sleeping Alone as the visuals for it were released last month. The song itself is a dichotomy; upbeat yet full of longing, and I wanted to know what made her write it.
“It is pretty much a sad song. This year during lockdown I had a breakup, so I was on the internet, trying to find out what everyone else was going through", she chuckled, “but this year has been so incredibly unpredictable and it kind of took me a minute, on top of lockdown, to feel like making any music. I received the beat in my inbox, and it was just like the one - it was like, ‘okay, I’ve snapped out of it now’; I was ready to make stuff." She continues, "so yeah, there’s obviously a lot of mixed messages in the song but it was essentially, me trying to convince myself that this is fine – this is all the self-love stuff that everyone has been talking about, so I can do this. It’s about identifying that even though I’m heartbroken there is still a silver lining. I wasn’t able to see that for a long time, but I knew that if I was going to get better, I needed to see it, which in this case, is more space in the bed”.
Though bantering, I responded that it didn’t feel confused to me. What I appreciated most about the song is that it talks about a stage that we don’t always admit to ourselves; sometimes we want to wallow in self-pity even though we know what we have to do to get to the other side. We end up moving on half-heartedly- not for lack of effort, but because your heart isn’t completely in it yet.
Though I had yet to see the video for Sleeping Alone I knew that it would be aesthetically beautiful based on her visual for Zoning. “Yes, music videos are definitely an art form, but I do try to make them quite moody. Also, it feels like a whole other process to the music because whilst I care about the music way more than anything, the visuals are my best attempt at sharing it with more people," she confesses. "At the same time, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to work with some really talented people that appreciate that it’s a vibe and an energy that people are more likely to connect with, so I aim to capture that, in the very least”.
For those of you who have yet to check her out, I asked her to describe the mood behind her sound. “I would say ethereal melancholy. There’s so many genres [in my music], and I hate putting my music down to just one because I dip into so many, but the emotion is the best way to string it all together, I think”, and I agree with her - regardless of which genre she’s into, there’s a psychedelic undertone which complements the ethereality.
As much as there’s that out of this world quality, there’s also a lot of raw emotion and I wonder how she managed to balance those emotions as she expresses them in her music. “I’m try to work through it. I do have a journal and I’m just trying to get through everything, but I know that I won’t get through it unless I come out and say it. Like, all the bad and scary stuff that I’m afraid to say”.
That was a perfect segue into her album Young Fashioned which is composed of tracks she made over a 4-year period. I wondered if she could talk us through the aural journey it provides for listeners. “It’s a journey, absolutely. That’s why I kind of struggled on what to call it as well; I think I settled with mixtape, but sometimes I’m call it an LP. Even up until a couple of months ago for some reason, the idea of making a project has been really overwhelming. There’re so many artists I admire, so many strong concepts and stories, and I’m just all over the place; doing as I feel. So Young Fashioned was a collection of finding myself, trying out new things. To be honest, I still feel like I’m doing that, even up till now”.
Before I even asked her what we could expect she let me know that next year she’s got another project coming out. “I’m so happy to actually have a plan. I’m so excited and I actually feel like, oh my God, I can do this now”, at which point we shared another look of endearment because I can relate- I’m also a ‘go with the flow’ kind of girl.
By now, it feels like we are basically twins, because I discovered Stranger in Moscow is one of her favourite songs; a grossly underrated MJ classic. She mentions some of her other influences; “Björk, Kanye, Destiny’s Child, Beyonce, Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey… that’s like everything that young me was playing in my room trying to learn how to sing. These days, artists like James Blake and Lykke Li. I like bringing an aspect of indie or trap; stuff that 'shouldn’t' happen. I currently have this crazy obsession of mixing pop and drill, it’s like really annoying”. I told her I would love to hear the sound, and she’ll have at least one listener if she ever does make that kind of music.
Even though she’d already covered it, I wanted to know what her next steps were, nearer to the present. “I would say, expect for me to be more social. I have so much time and energy these days, so I’m going to be a lot more active. I’ve even got two more songs dropping this year; I was just like ‘fuck it’ – I like to test out different things and see what works. The first single is called ‘Pressure’, and I struggle with genres, but I’d describe it as indie, electronic, vapours… it’s really sad vibes - most times when I play it to people, they say they can’t hear what I’m saying, but it sounds really sad. I remember I was really sad when I wrote it, but it’s more of an emotional soundscape, if anything. The second one is called ‘Home’ which is coming out in December. I initially released it on Soundcloud in like 2015 and people loved it. I always get questions about when it will be available again so I’m feeling confident about it. The release date is near Christmas because it is a happier vibe - well for me anyways, but it’s like, we don’t have to be sad around Christmas time this year. We’ve been through so much; it’s a time to be happy."
JaJa’s next single ‘Pressure’ will be out Friday 13th November on all streaming platforms.