Welsh songstress Jem was one of 2004s “It” artists. Her debut, Finally Woken, was a compact 11 tracks of mid-tempo catchy tunes that were fit for radio but probably a little too clever to get any spins. The poor woman did her best to be heard, putting her music in movie trailers, TV shows (The O.C.), and movies (this years Sex and the City feature). Along the way she earned critical acclaim, but like most worthy artists, she never gained stardom.
Part of the reason the album was so ready-for-licensing was how easy on the ears the looped drums and her sugary voice were. Think Dido, only with the possibility of being more sinister. The albums first track, They, samples children singing against a danceable beat while Jem laments societys sheep mentality. Youre dancing with her, but youre not quite sure if shes cutting you down at the same timeeh, you dont care. The albums best song, 24, combines a throbbing guitar riff and dance beat so irresistible you dont realize shes talking about her impending murder for the first several listens.
After a four-year absence shes finally back with a new album, Down to Earth. The good and bad news: this collection doesnt stray far from its predecessor. The hooks, the surprisingly dark outlook on life, and the sweet vocals make another solid effort. The problem is that it doesnt break new ground either. Still, you cant fault Jem for using a formula that workscause it works really well. The most exciting moment of the album is pseudo-rap track Aciiid, a trippy song that wouldve sounded at home on Roisin Murphys Overpowered album. “It’s Amazing” is another standout track that appeared on the Sex and the City soundtrack, which makes perfect sense with its cool groove that makes you want to strut.
In all sincerity, her next effort could be just as similar and I wouldnt complain. Hopefully she takes the album on the road because her 2004 club tour consistently earned reviews that gushed over her performance, yet sellout crowds were rare. Whether or not shes ever a household name is yet to be seen, but expect to hear more solid work from her in the future.