Like many of us, Jade Bird worships at the altar of Bruce Springsteen. When NME met her last year, she waxed lyrical about The Boss’ one-two punch of ‘Nebraska’ and ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ between 1982 and 1984. Back then, Springsteen worked on the two albums concurrently – some of the songs, such as ‘State Trooper’ (Bird’s favourite, she says) were left inkeeping with the sonics of the hotel room in which they were demoed. Others (namely ‘Born in the U.S.A.’s oft-misread title track) were given majestic pop makeovers in the studio, proving that versatile songwriting can go a long way.
British songwriter Bird’s debut album is a reminder of this. The self-titled record falls somewhere in the middle of those two avenues – tranquility and bombast – but does so, remarkably, without becoming a hot mess. There’s the side with intricate songwriting that favours minimalist balladry among emotional turmoil (‘Does Anybody Know’), while the remainder are encouraged to explode like a majestic firework on the 4th of July (‘Love Has All Been Done Before’, ‘I Get No Joy’). Your position on the above Springsteen releases may dictate which half of this record you gravitate towards. Either way, the entire album is a triumph.
This ability to pair tenderness and good vibrations will come as little surprise to those who’ve been following the 21-year-old’s journey so far. Go listen to her sole EP to date, ‘Something American’, for proof. ‘What Am I Here For’, a song so fragile it could break at the slightest knock rubs shoulders with ‘Cathedral’, an sacrilegious alt-pop smash that utilises both hushed tones and Bird’s euphoric vocals.
That release and 2018’s storming breakout single ‘Lottery’ – a kaleidoscopic pop smash on which Bird embraced her fierce vocals in more upbeat circumstances – drew attention both here and across the pond. Similarly, the rollicking take-down of ‘Uh Huh’ also charted high in specialised Billboard charts in the US, where she’s fast becoming a festival staple.
You can feel that Stateside influence creep into album, which was recorded in upstate New York by Bird and her band. Take ‘Going Gone’, which sounds like if Dua Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ was concocted mid-hoedown at a chaotic bar in Nashville, with its lightening pace and withering putdowns (One, two, four – come on babe there’s the door / Five, six, seven eight, I’m your girlfriend – not your mate). More American heroes, like Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga find their ways into the assured performances on opener ‘Ruins’ and the superb string-laden ‘17’, where she balances poise and conviction with skill.
‘Jade Bird’ has the edge of an assured debut album and is a startling introduction to a British talent who looks set to take the States by storm. Whatever she decides to do with the next set of songs – build them bold and brash, or strip them back to considered jams – it’s hard to imagine them failing on her anytime soon.