On Sept. 8, Icelandic and Chinese singer-songwriter Laufey released her sophomore album “Bewitched,” reinvigorating the relevance of jazz music to Gen Z as it earned the biggest jazz album debut in Spotify history.
Laufey Lín Jónsdóttir graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2021, but her love of music runs much deeper than that. She comes from a family of classical musicians, and her twin sister lent violin performances to a few tracks on “Bewitched.”
Laufey’s incredible talent for music shines through on the execution of this album, which is — to put it simply — flawless. I won’t claim to be an expert on jazz (despite poorly playing drums in band through middle and high school), but Laufey’s smooth vocals and stunning instrumentals consistently deliver both raw emotion and polished reflection.
On “Bewitched,” Laufey finds herself at the intersection of classic jazz, groovy bossa nova, modern indie and timeless diaristic songwriting in the style of Joni Mitchell or Taylor Swift in a smooth, perfectly witchy fall album.
If you’ve never heard of Laufey (pronounced lay-vay) before, it’s highly likely you’ve at least heard her voice. The lead single for “Bewitched,” “From The Start,” has gone viral on TikTok and charted on the US Bubbling Under Hot 100 and UK indie charts.
It’s a standout track on the album about finally sharing romantic feelings for someone. Over an upbeat bossa nova instrumental, Laufey sings, “And I sound like a loon, but don't you feel it too? / Confess I loved you from the start.”
The album opens with “Dreamer,” an ethereal jazz ballad about feeling like a hopeless romantic, expertly setting up the mindset that Laufey addresses the rest of the album with.
“No boy's going to kill the dreamer in me,” she croons. She follows it up with “Second Best,” an equally gorgeous song with a much more heartbreaking central theme.
The tracks “Must Be Love” and “While You Were Sleeping” find themselves somewhere between a classic Disney princess anthem and a crucial scene in a teen romance movie. Both are some of my favorite songs on the album, with lyrics just as beautiful as Laufey’s voice.
“Misty” has the same effect, but with a distinct coffee-shop aura — a fresh take on a classic jazz standard, and the album’s only cover.
My favorite track, though, is “Lovesick.” With stripped-down strings in the verses that build to an orchestral chorus, Laufey laments wanting more than a casual relationship, singing, “In the morning, you would be gone / I'd be mourning, tryin' to hold on to / the memory of your lips, / God, I’m so lovesick.”
“California and Me” marks Laufey’s second time collaborating with the prestigious London-based Philharmonia Orchestra, and serves as an excellent reminder that all of the instrumentals on “Bewitched” came from real instruments. In a heart-wrenching breakup song, Laufey compares an ex-lover to her love-hate relationship with California, where she currently lives.
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“Bewitched” starts to wrap up with the album’s penultimate track, “Letter To My 13 Year Old Self,” on which Laufey addresses her younger self, saying things that she wishes she had known then. The lyrics reference Laufey’s childhood in Iceland and how she felt different from her peers because of her mixed ethnicity.
“I know that you feel loud, so different from the crowd / Of big blue eyes, and long blonde hair, and boys that stare,” she sings, making use of her lower register in one of the most beautiful songs on the album.
The album draws to a close with the title track. If “Dreamer” was Laufey dreaming of a real but fleeting love, “Bewitched” is an answer to that nervous worldview. “I didn't know that much at all / 'Bout love before / But now, I think I’m learning,” she sings, calling back to her debut album “Everything I Know About Love.”
Although being bewitched by love sounds accidental, everything about “Bewitched” as a song is perfectly intentional, dancing around key themes throughout the album and the rest of Laufey’s discography.
As an album, “Bewitched” is committed to jazz, and never deviates for long from the genre, though it expertly blends pop and indie influences together while curating a truly timeless sound.
By utilizing such an ageless sound in combination with lyrical themes that appeal to Gen Z, Laufey brings a soothing sense of comfort with her on “Bewitched.” The struggles of today’s younger generations are unique, but our feelings of anxiety around love and life are just as timeless as jazz music.