Recommended Tracks: “Bang Bang Baby”, “Till I Remember”, “Made To Love”
Artists You May Like: Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor, Amy Winehouse
How do you look back without connecting a certain decade to a style of music? It’s impossible. For the 80s, lots of synth and power ballads come to mind. For the 90s, we have grunge and opulent pop music. Everyone has their favorite genre/time period combination, especially artists like Bianca James. The Toronto singer-songwriter is partial to the classic sounds of the 1960s, which she recreates on her self-titled debut album. Inspired by the soul, pop, and Motown elements from that time, along with the live music production associated with modern hits by Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse, Bianca showcases the timeless beauty of organic and retro music, giving us a riveting and adventurous project.
We begin with “Black & Blue” and “Monaco” – two tracks that put Bianca’s range on full display. With “Black & Blue,” she leans into a soulful, mature pop sound reminiscent of Adele or Sam Smith. The percussion and warm backing vocals add to the drama Bianca tells us in the lyrics, where she emphasizes the importance of setting boundaries and cutting ties in order to protect her heart. She sings, “As the colors fade from my beating heart / I’ll set it free / ‘Cause black and white is better than black and blue.” With “Monaco,” however, Bianca trades in these moody colors for ones that are more tropical and explosive. Against the surf-rock feel from the horns and guitar, Bianca captures the essence of a fun and flirty adventure in the French Riviera, ready to live her best life. Unapologetically, she sings, “Cruising with the top down / Hair in the breeze / Driving down the highway / Doing as I please” and “A little wild / A little crazy / That’s me / Doing Monaco, baby,” making everyone jealous.
Cruising right along, we arrive at “Bang Bang Baby” and “Till I Remember,” which are a couple of stand-out moments on the album. A joyous revenge anthem, “Bang Bang Baby” is all about treating yourself to a good time. Bianca’s graceful vocals become fiery and dangerous as she gets into how good it feels to let loose for once. Over the bright guitar chords, drum patterns, and dynamic contributions from The Hollywood Horns, she sings, “Nothing left to hold me back, boy / Nothing to lose tonight” and “Maybe I should teach you how a broken heart feels,” excited to use all she has learned against this guy. But even though Bianca has these empowered moments, there are times when she gets in her feelings. On the tender piano ballad “Till I Remember,” she tries to remind herself that she needs to move on from someone. She acknowledges that a desire for that person is still there, singing, “I look around in a crowded room, hoping I will see your face / Till I remember to forget you.” While she shows a vulnerable side, Bianca’s voice is as smooth and pure as ever, encouraging listeners to get lost in its deep, sweet sounds.
The last part of the album vividly weaves together the themes and musical elements found in the previous songs. The Diana Ross-inspired “Inside Out” finds Bianca in the midst of cheerful backing vocals and finger snaps, as if she just came back from the 1960s. The retro jingle style of the verses adds a charm and innocence to Bianca’s words, especially in lines like “I know I’m far from perfect / But I know it’s not worth it / To hate myself for my mistakes / Better a real me than a fake.” She is ready to own her true self, which also comes through on “Last Words.” The dark verses and brighter choruses complement each other, showing off how different Bianca’s past compares to her future. As she sings, “I’m done with grieving all of these mistakes” and “The love story I imagined is never coming true,” you want to cheer her on. The same impulse arises on “Made To Love,” which is where the album comes to a close. Its lightness and summery pop production gives it an essence of the 90s, a perfect song for Britney, Christina, or Mandy Moore to record. There is also a finality to it that convinces us that Bianca has found closure, bringing out the track’s main point, “We were made for love / But we weren’t made to love.”
Speaking about her songwriting process, Bianca explained, “I don’t think I consciously wrote songs about empowerment, but there is a message of overcoming, of finding hope on the other side. That’s an undercurrent in all my songs.” As diverse and versatile as these songs are, determination is one main theme that comes across in all the tracks on Bianca James. We are with her during her highs and lows, but through it all, she finds a way to pull through and accept a new outcome for herself. The addition of the live performance instrumentals helps bring these messages to life, truly capturing that feisty, relentless spirit. Overall, Bianca’s self-titled debut is one that sets her apart from other artists of her generation. She knows how to use her voice, and with her impressive ability to adapt to any style (as we hear on the album’s official closing track, “Bang Bang Baby (Johnnyblake Remix)”), she is poised for a full and exciting career.
You can listen to Bianca James on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.