Even within a genre of music as wholly different and inherently unique as Soca, it's possible for someone to become a standout and do so in a major way. Certainly this is true for the absolute pillars and leaders of the music who have become so well respected and esteemed for their ability to remain colourful in a sea of exploding tints. However, it's also true for certain names who, while they may not yet reach the greatest stage of Soca, they seem well on their way through creating a style and an image as diverse as the music itself. Such a name would be a favourite of ours, the always interesting Jalena who, through offering up a very COOL brand of Soca music with mixes from various other styles as well, has managed to carve out a small but impressive reputation for herself and one which figures to only grow in size. Today we take a breezy look at the trio of albums which now make up the catalog of the Tortola native and the excellent vibes which comprise them. Discography: Jalena.
|The Music of Jalena|
"The Jam Sessions" [Jalena - 2010]
The music's intoxicating. Jalena's debut set, 2010's "The Jam Sessions", remains my favourite from the artist and that's primarily the case because it really did an excellent job in bringing together some of her biggest (and my favourite) tunes at the time and it's just such a nice and well accumulated set to my opinion. It's also an album which has found a nice place on my workout playlists and, therefore, has helped me keep a whole heap of fat off of my ass, which is always an excellent quality. Despite checking it at just a dozen pieces, the highlights were numerous and the highlights of this album were, in some respects, the main attractions of Jalena's career to date. Tunes like 'Bumpa', 'Down De Road', 'Wuk Meh', 'In De VI' 'Coming To Jam' and the MASSIVE 'In Meh System' appeared here as did several other sterling compositions. These sessions also featured helping hands from the likes of Problem Child, Daria, Clint Henderson and others. Not be missed by fans of Soca, new and old.
"In The Music" [Jalena - 2011]
Less is more. In retrospect, Jalena's sophomore offering, "In The Music", was an even more sleek and streamlined project than its predecessor and I mean that in more ways than the fact that it was a third shorter. Her style, in general, could be called kind of 'aerodynamic', but this was even smoother than usual. It was also very, very good. I do wish that it was longer (and significantly longer), but when you string together eight songs which include tunes like 'Something In The Music', 'Come Baby', 'Slow Wine' with Dennis Da Mennis (a song which I now LOVE), a remix of 'In Meh System' and the cool and all Zouk-ed out 'Rester Avec Moi [Stay With Me]', you can't really complain very much. I'm still kind of waiting for Jalena to wake up and realize that while she's certainly done well in Soca and will just as surely continue to, maybe doing a full Zouk album isn't the worst of ideas.
"Bad Reputation" [Jalena - 2012]
Changing times. Jalena's most recent release, "Bad Reputation" from earlier this year, was definitely one which made a fool out of me (time #3,985,098 that has happened in my life). I'd always maintained that despite my thinking that the artist was someone with a very clear mind to do more 'outward'/'mainstream' work, it didn't really matter. I didn't think that no matter what she did, no matter how many remixes they made or in what direction she went that her vibe would actually be much different than its ever been. She makes really Pop-friendly Groovy Soca and a full Pop album or even a full Zouk album (even if she sang it in Kreyol), wouldn't sound very different than what she was doing up until then. "Bad Reputation" proved me completely wrong. It is decidedly different from its older 'siblings'. Here we hear Jalena doing songs which, primarily, register somewhere between Pop and R&B, but you also have straight Reggae and more Zouk thrown in and very little of her usual sound. And this goes on for ten songs here which gives more than an appropriate taste of what she could do in this style. I liked it. While her two earlier albums remain better in my opinion, it's only so due to a matter of styles of music which I prefer, but here tunes like 'Love Meh', 'He Said' (which is a Zouk song), 'Gimme Ur Luv' alongside Jamaican vocalist, Da'Ville, 'Gunshot' which features her deejaying a bit and others are just impressive moments regardless of genres and she deservers an ample amount of credit for making this work. So biggup Jalena until it causes you a physical pain.
Only three albums deep and big questions now stand for Jalena's music. She's shown a very nice amount of versatility and I'm wondering what style might a 2013 album come in and where will she ultimately make her mark in the music. Until those questions are answered, definitely check out the works of one of the Caribbean's most interesting and unique gifted talents, Jalena.