Where is the Mercy
Where is the Mercy is available at:
16th December, 2015
Soul; Funk-Pop; Rock
RARELY does a single artist come along that makes such…
an instant impression; they are talked-about in near-God-like terms. Before I get to assess my featured artist- someone who has some serious praise levelled her way- she brings to mind a few different points: the Manchester music scene; influences and genres that are twisted together; the effectiveness of social media- a little bit about the female solo artists coming through. My reticence about the band market still remains in place- the fact that the last year was not the most successful for new acts. I have found that there is too much hype and attention levied towards bands; they seem to dominate the press’ attention- great solo artists get overlooked by comparison. Whilst 2015 may not have produced the best year for band-made music; it did showcase some of the finest solo acts for years. With more musicians deciding to go solo- rather than form a band- you are getting some brave musicians coming through; laying down their sounds and ideas- hoping it will capture the public attention. Having spent te past week reviewing music across the U.K. and the world; it has been great to see what is coming through at the moment. Today I get to return to Manchester and one of the city’s most promising and stunning artists. Into this year Manchester is going to be on a lot of people’s lips. With bands such as Blossoms, TVAM, PINS and Horsebeach emerging- touted as bands that will be festival-ready in no time- and it is small wonder Manchester is hot property right now. The city has always been at the forefront when it comes to new music- and has an esteemed music legacy- so there will be a lot of eyes trained this way. Although last year saw a somewhat ho-hum year for band output- only my opinion; many would beg to differ- this year is seeing some promising bands come through- with Manchester perhaps at the forefront of that vanguard. Manchester boasts some of the most original, fresh and ambitious musicians coming through at the moment: each act seems to want to make their own stamp; creating something long-lasting and impressive- not just come into music for the popularity and money. You get so much personality, force and nuance (with the music) so 2016 will be a bumper year for new music. Away from the bands of Manchester there are a lot of great young songwriters emerging- some of whom are being compared to legends of music past. Among these is J.J. Rosa: a stunning young songwriter with phenomenal musical prowess; a wonderfully evocative voice- hearts and critical fingers have been trembling in awe. Although these are the earliest steps for J.J. Rosa, the signs are all very positive indeed. There are so many solo acts out there; to separate yourself from the pack is an achievement in itself- it will be fascinating to see the rise of one of Britain’s most astonishing talents. Before continuing my point- and bring up a few others- let me introduce you to her:
“Imagine Prince as a woman… Imagine Jimi Hendrix through the prism of Amy Winehouse, dressed in the sequins, feathers and cat-suit finery of a ‘70s Diana Ross. She’s here already: the musically explosive, vocally dynamic, sex-groove, sleaze-blues rock ‘n’ soul force of nature known as JJ Rosa. Scheduled to release her debut single ‘Feel Loved’ on Nov 18th, JJ is well n’ truly ready to make her mark and confidently following in the Funk-Pop/Disco footsteps of the likes of Prince and Nile Rodgers. JJ is now an official Fender artist and part of Select Model’s Special Bookings. Earlier this summer JJ and her band opened for Stevie Wonder at The Calling Festival, topped with a full page spread in the official Glasto magazine, for what turned out to be a completely packed out tent with a double encore! A female lead electric guitarist with such distinctive soulful pipes is hard to come by so there’s no denying that JJ is somewhat of a revelation! With an exceptional band providing a groove heavy, beat banging foundation, JJ and her boys are creating one big hard hitting catchy pot of insanely addictive music!”
The artists that are capturing the public imagination are those that display agility and range. There are so many artists beholden to being straightforward and unbending. Their sounds are too defined and inflexible; their voices too limited- there is the risk of boredom setting in. I am not saying most solo artists do things this way- although there are far too many that come in tepid and predictable- yet the ones we should be watching are those that go the extra mile. J.J. Rosa has been compared to Prince- she is taller and less purple than the U.S. legend- although those comparisons are not hyperbole. Her guitar wizardry is exhilarating and eye-watering: she can weave colorful patterns and summon biblical electricity; assuage stress and heartache with the merest lick of her guitar- paint something sexual and soulful; foot-stomping and Funk-infused. Although not as authoritative and skillful and Jimi Hendrix; that is not to say the Manchester-based songwriter cannot reach those heights- she is showing an immense amount of early potential. I think critics are too quick to make comparisons with obvious musicians; Rosa is an artist that has depth and shades to her performance. Her guitar skills recall elements of Hendrix and Jimmy Page; bits of Santana and Matt Bellamy- she runs a huge gauntlet of ideas and emotions. When it comes down to it she is her own woman: not someone who hangs to the coattails of her idols and heroes. That voice is a soulful and captivating bird in itself. Influenced by the ‘60s and ’70 Soul greats- the likes of Diana Ross and Tina Turner- you get elements of fairly-recent Hip-Hop and Rap- Lauryn Hill is an idol of our heroine. I know I am bringing names into the pot- and trying to make a contrary argument- but am employing these as a guide. Being a devotee of black music and the wonderful variety on offer- from Jazz and Reggae greats to modern-day U.S. idols- it is tied with a love of Folk, Pop and legendary Hard-Rock- there are no limits when it comes to J.J. Rosa.
Artists that adore music and have exceptional tastes- maybe a subjective measure but there are some absolutes- are always going to be those that go that bit further. So many new musicians coming through have such limited tastes and qualitative measures- bands crib too heavily from Foo Fighters and Oasis; solo artists are not much more adventurous. What I love about J.J. Rosa- apart from her impeccable music tastes- is how diverse and authoritative she is across all facets. Her vocal is unique and defined; it brings little spots of other artists into the mix- soulful and edgy; sensual and Blues-inspired- whilst her guitar work has a multifarious and free-from-captivity sound; it is unshackled but disciplined- one of the best female guitarists in the world right now. With her lyrics tapping into modern-day concerns and politics- giving them an upbeat angle and plenty of emotion too- with romantic themes and personal struggles- you have a young woman with a huge future ahead. Before I continue to the review- and bring in J.J. Rosa’s previous work- I wanted to talk a little about social media and female artists coming through. With magazines and media having published their ‘ones to watch’ lists already- and making some good choices for a change- it is shocking not to see J.J. Rosa on all of them. Among the female artists coming through at the moment she must rank somewhere near the top- deserving of a lot more focus and attention. The Mancunian gem has already seduced large numbers across social media and the Internet- to my mind not getting the exposure she deserves. When artists have thousands of fans and followers- which is the case with J.J. Rosa- I am always baffled by the comparative-passivity of the followers. When she pronounces news and introduces new music; I find that so few of her followers actually share it and comment. Maybe it is a sign of the digital age; there are so few people actually promoting musicians and their work- why follow an artist if you are not going to get involved? With the calibre J.J. Rosa has it is inexcusable that so many do not herald her words and help build momentum- often left to media sources to do the heavy lifting. No matter, for we have an artist whose music is doing the shouting all on its own- the reviews and praise is pouring by the day!
If you are a new follower of J.J. Rosa you might need a guide as to her influences and sounds. When it comes to her idols and heroes; the below (taken from her Facebook page) are particular important to her:
Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, The Fugees, Lauryn Hill, Nile Rodgers, James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Etta James, Daft Punk, Tina Turner, George Clinton, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, The Doors, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Buddy Guy, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Dusty Springfield, Gnarls Barkley, Cee-lo Green, Dr. Dre, Run DMC, Andre 3000, Outkast, Jurassic 5, Tribe Called Quest, Quest Love, The Roots,Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley, Kavinsky, Justice, Led Zeppelin…
Having such a range of names in that list; it might be overwhelming trying to get a sense of her sound and direction. The best thing to do is to hear the music and arrive at your own conclusion. J.J. Rosa has a long list of musical favourites; if you are a fan of the above then it is well-worth checking her out. Whether the young star will being these musicians into the fold (in a new album) will be interesting to see- let’s hope she continues her charge and is planning some new music for this year. There are so many artists that do not hit you upon first listen- and compel you to go elsewhere- so finding someone so immediate and nuanced is a rare thing.
Where is the Mercy (is) a new song that was motivated by horrors and atrocities. In addition to our featured song; the young musician has released several other tracks onto the Internet. Redemption is a song that begins with a funky slam and choir vocals. A rousing and spine-tingling start; you get jagged and animalistic guitar notes cutting in. Our heroine’s vocal is sassy and sexy; weaving and striking with passion. Looking at an anti-heroine; we look at a subject that gives into temptation (a rather seedy sort at times) – she has an addiction for the darker side of life. That need for redemption and salvation is key and centre- whether she will find it is another thing. Almost a sermon song- helped by that choir-like call-and-response- you have a song with gospel roots; tied with Soul flair and a huge vocal- a song that has such energy and pizazz. Mantras and sage advice is brought in- “Life is all we’ve got/so don’t go giving it up”- that highlights the need to make wise choices and not squander the chance for improvement. Whether inspired by a real-life figure- maybe a friend or composite of various people- you are hooked by that soulful vocal and stunning musicianship- all coming together in a rhapsody of sound and voice. More boisterous and rousing than Where is the Mercy– a song with a different side and theme- it shows another side to J.J. Rosa and what she is capable of. This song has the potential to be a live favourite; it calls for mass singalong and chorusing- one of those songs that will bring the crowds together.
Other tracks like Step Aside and Sunshine are available- across SoundCloud and Youtube- whereas Tonight was mooted as a possible; single- Where is the Mercy was favoured; a more appropriate release at the time. Cry Out is out of the most listened-to songs from J.J. Rosa. Beginning with rushing vocals and choruses background voices; it instantly gets to work and leaves its impressions. Sometimes life doesn’t work out for the better; there is loneliness and uncertainty around our heroine- she always has support waiting for her. There is always that temptation to cry out when they “don’t give a damn about you”. There is anger and disappointment in the song; that need to be recongised and have her dreams fulfilled. The chorus is among one of the most potent and effective she has produced; another song that will get the festival crowds dancing along. Backed by an incredible composition- flourishing and enraptured guitars; a funky beat throughout- you have a song with consistent momentum and energy; something that will get the listener involved and singing along. Our heroine is used to writing songs that promote hope and keeping going; the more positive side of things- here we see a different agenda and feeling. Here J.J. Rosa is in more anxious mood and is struggling to find happiness- that need to get away from darker things and get the respect she deserves. Whatever motivated and inspired the song- whether the stresses of the music industry or the struggle to find her voice- you can hear that heartache and disappointment come through in the song.
Throughout every song you get a clear consistency and personality come through. J.J. Rosa does not want to be any other artist: she employs little touches of some legends-past; at the end of things you get a very original and unique voice. Every song tells its own story and has immense quality and consistency. Over the course of a few songs she has demonstrated what a talent she possesses; maybe her SoundCloud/YouTube songs will come together on an album this year?
Whilst Feel Loved is the most popular and played of J.J. Rosa’s tracks- it has an endless drive and addictiveness to it- the song of the moment is Where is the Mercy. When explaining the origins of the song- and the decision to release it as a single- the young artist ascribed it thus:
“The massacre at the Bataclan Club of a young audience enjoying our common bond of music is incomprehensible to me. So, in reflection of this, we don’t feel it appropriate to release our song ‘Tonight’, and have now instead decided to share a song I hold close to my heart, ‘Where is the Mercy’. I had written this song as a response to the many world tragedies that continually unfold however, in the wake of the Paris attack, it feels more relevant than ever to share this song as the sentiment is particularly poignant.”
The song instantly comes to life (sans introduction) as our heroine is keen to put her voice onto record. The song’s title is the first thing heard and highlights the urgency and necessity of its meanings- the reaction to such unexplained evil and violence. Given the height of public feeling around the time- and the anger that still remains today- you get a vocal that does not accuse or shout; it does not scream or overly-emote. Instead you have a performance imbued with incredible soulfulness and poignancy. At her most arresting and sensual; the words are given so much more gravitas and meaning- if they were screamed then it would distill their potential and meaning. That repeated line is deeply effective and striking as it unfolds; with every introduction there seems to be more hurt and heartbreak in the vocal. When the first verse arrives; our heroine looks at “This girl”- one of dozens that were killed during the attack- and how unjust the killings were. Usually when I review a song I do not known the origins and meaning- and arrive at my own conclusions- but knowing what inspired the song; I was compelled to hear what our heroine would sing- how she would represent the tragedy. The song not only deals with Paris and the attacks: the song reflects all of the terrorist attacks that have occurred around the world. The song’s central figure has been slayed and taken away for no reason and purpose. Her promise and life was ahead- reflected in the sadness of her mother’s eyes- as our heroine lets her voice summon that loss and sadness. Rosa seems disgusted and ashamed of the world at the moment; the evil elements that want to bring people down to Hell with them. At this stage our heroine questions the existence of God- if someone really is looking down. Being an atheist, I have no doubt there is no higher being looking over us- technically God did not stop the terrorists; he also created them and made it happen- so it is near-impossible to have faith and believe anyone would let this happen. With no divine intention and heavenly compassion; our heroine questions the state of the world- just what happened to peace and mercy? If there were true justice then lightning bolts would reign; the terrorists would be purged and obliterated- there would be some balance and justice coming into things. As you start to become invested in that heartbroken and affected vocal; the song explodes into life as the chorus comes back in- the composition fizzes and the mood lightens. A big and multi-tracked vocal emphasises the song’s mandate and adds huge weight to proceedings. Highlighting the intensity and necessity; the composition mixes heavy beats and plenty of drama- supporting that passionate and stunning vocal.
The chorus has a Pop hook to it whilst retaining elements of Soul and Rock- a concoction of sounds goes into an emphatic and enormous whole. The next figure that is brought into the song is a young man. Thinking that tomorrow would be a better day; instantly I was wondering if another victim was being assessed- in a rather tragic and unfortunate way- or it is a politician. As the lines continue- “there’s no way he could ever know”- the meaning becomes clear and evident. That sense of being blind-sided and picked-off at random adds to the tragedy and unfairness- the fact these people had no idea what was in store. Going about their business like everyone else; things would change for the worse. Being too young to be “a memory of yesterday” you cannot help but reflect and remember the flashbacks from those fateful days- not just in Paris but all around the world. Being especially affected by the attack of the Bataclan (where 89 people were killed) there is that innocent and happiness to begin- people going to see a concert in high spirits- before everything changed in an instance. The haunting pain- like a shadow “on the brightest day”- has affected the world and all those who believe in justice and humanity. J.J. Rosa represents a fear that we all feel at the moment: we may have our lives taken away before nature and old age has its chance; the fear that we do not get to choice how long we live. Our heroine shows her fears and does not want to die young- in the modern climate, how many of us are truly safe? Keeping that anger in-check and under-the-surface you can hear that mix of passion, fear and dismay work alongside one another. Just past the two-minute marker an electrifying solo is dropped: the guitar riff is almost like a fire burning; something that inflames and enraptures. An intense howl and call-out; you get caught in the spell of the strings as they cry out- the embodiment and representation of universal pain and anger. Leading into the chorus; the brief coda adds a necessary exultation and release- our heroine lets her tears and scream come out through her guitar magic. Where is the Mercy changes course and genres. From the Soul-cum-Pop rush of the composition; the blitzing Psychedelia of the guitar introduction; our heroine takes the song into more touching and delicate territory. With her voice reverent and hushed; she begs once more for mercy and sanity. Speaking on behalf of the victims- “All she wanted was some mercy/but the angels took her away”- you get reflection and eulogy. Haunting and affected, the vocal performance is one of the most raw and emotional I have heard in a long while- you sense that tears and collapse might not be that far away. Reviewing the song a couple of months after its release does not dull it potency and potential- the words and vocals bring memories of the events back; those stark images and dark moments. The song constantly looks for answers and questions fairness and faith. If his life (the song’s hero) was taken away there must be a reason, no? The reality is there is no reason why things happen- certainly no God moulding life and making decisions- apart from the fact others make them happen. One of my least favouite things people say- aside from “There are plenty of people worse off than you”- is “Everything happens for a reason”. That saying works on the assumption that there is a God (I do not believe in) and covers literally everything. You can’t back a statement like that and ignore atrocities and massacres. What was the reason behind random killings and holocausts? I always find it aggravating when people believe such nonsense sayings and statements- the fact is life is random and unregulated; there is no cosmic balance and guidance; people control what happens (not God). Our heroine is looking for some answers among the chaos and bloodshed- the fact is some cockroaches have made a decision to exterminate innocent human beings for no reason. In the final moments the chorus is reintroduced to add effectiveness to the track; it sounds even more direct and mesmeric with each performance. In the final seconds the vocal ends; we are left with haunted electronics that are like the silence in the aftermath- whereas thousands were preparing for a concert (in fine voice and conversation) the gunfire has caused complete stillness.
Amidst tragedy and carnage in this world; musicians are important voices that represent common feeling. Whereas some post on social media and express their disgust; others sojourn to the studio and come up with something reactionary and beautiful. I saw so little musical retaliation to the terrorist attacks which is very strange. Musicians are among the most motivated and publicly-aware people around; I would have liked to have heard more songs coming through- that rally against the madness of the modern world. Perhaps there are tracks lurking in SoundCloud and band pages- social media is pretty useless when it comes to bringing these songs to wider attention. J.J. Rosa is a passionate young woman who felt inspired to have her words heard; get those feelings on paper- create a song that spoke for the masses and was a hymn for the fallen. I was worried about reviewing the song given the Paris attacks were a while ago. Unfortunately the threats and attacks continue; songs like Where is the Mercy are ever-relevant; with every week the lines and lyrics gain new meaning and relevant. With no question mark following the song title- making it sound more like a proclamation and shout rather than a question- you have a song that speaks for all of us. I am baffled the song has so few views on YouTube- what are people listening to?!- it shows the imbalance and thought process of the music listener. Whereas Pop moppets are getting millions of views for their singles- the same crap about broken hearts and boys being boys- something universal and hugely impressive has garnered comparatively-few listens. With so few of J.J. Rosa’s fans sharing the track; I do wonder whether more needs to be done to prioritise songs that are more meaningful and exceptional (than the Pop fodder that gets the big votes). I’ll leave the rant for another day; I am just so pleased the media and fans have recongised the song and made sure it gets its plaudits. The gorgeous Manchester-born artist has created a song that defines 2015 and shows what an immense talent she is. Backed by an exceptional band- that are tight and effortless throughout- you get so many sounds and sensations elicited. Rushing electronics and tribal drums entangle in the chorus; Funk and Soul sounds sit with something grittier and street-level. The production is exceptionally sharp and concise: every note and element is perfectly mixed and balanced; ripe and clear- without being overly-polished and fake. Given the weight and subject of the song; it was vital to ensure that vocal is up-front and decipherable. Our heroine is allowed to be high in the mix and get her messages across. Projecting one of her most incredible and indelible vocals to date; you have a performance that shows heart and heartache; passion and anger; beauty and transcendent chorusing- all mixed together in a peerless and entrancing delivery. The lyrics bring in characters (nameless but feeling human) that give the song personal heartache and relevance- we can all picture the types of men/woman represented in the song. Never profane or wandering; the lyrics are economic and impressive- the chorus is one of the most quotable and memorable J.J. Rosa has ever created. By the end of Where is the Mercy you listen again and again- either to hear that chorus in full flight or immerse yourself in the lyrics. A tremendous song that is the perfect representation of one of music’s most dazzling diamonds- a musician with few peers.
Where is the Mercy (is) a song that represents a public sadness and much-needed sense of reflection. With a collection of songs available across SoundCloud- check them out if you can- it all bodes well for this year. I am wondering whether J.J. Rosa will be in the studio putting together an album or E.P. – or whether she already has- but an album would be much-anticipated and celebrated. Maybe she needs a few more months to travel and find new inspirations; let the music find her in a sense- you can bet she will be busy this year. Over the last year she has travelled across the globe and captivated festival crowds- including spots at Glastonbury, The Calling (where she opened for Stevie Wonder); the Isle of Wight Festival and Secret Garden Party. A devotee of the Fender Stratocaster (she is an ambassador for the brand; she was asked to play at the Fender Stratocaster 60th anniversary) she has such a bond with the instrument- fueled by her love of Jimi Hendrix and the guitar greats listening to as a child. From a tender age rooting through her dad’s vinyl collection; to her maturity as a stunning young woman- the London-based artist has blossomed into one of music’s most scintillating hybrids. It is impossible to compare J.J. Rosa with anybody else. Whilst her guitar-strumming skills have drawn lofty comparisons with Prince, Hendrix and their ilk; her voice mixing Amy Winehouse and Diana Ross- her fashion sense straight out of the ‘70s divas collection- and you have a singular artist that is blowing away the competition. There are so many dull and approved-for-the-press artists out there- it is brilliant to see such a special and unique artist emerge on the scene. She has already gathered some extraordinary praise and plaudits- including patronage from Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac- and has a great expectation on her shoulders. Having toured extensively and seduced crowds across the world; she is based in London and planning this year ahead. Whether we see any new releases in the next few months- or touring is going to be the priority- I am not sure; what we can be sure of a busy year for the young artist. Before closing things, I wanted to come back to the Manchester music scene and female solo acts; cross-pollination and ambition in music- a little about social media and its effectiveness. Although based in the capital; J.J. Rosa is hails from Manchester: a city that has provided some of music’s best-ever acts. At the moment there is a lot of attention paid to the bands coming from the city. Still a big obsession for the media; some of the solo artists from Manchester are being promoted and prioritised.
J.J. Rosa is one of the most striking and startling to emerge from the city in many years: for my money there are few like her; none with that same ability and talent. There are a lot of great female artists emerging at the moment; all with their own sound and identity- it can be quite hard to distinguish the ones to keep an eye on. Depending on your tastes I guess- there is something for everyone out there- you are well catered-for and accommodated. For those that have a love of ‘60s-Psychedelia and ‘70s-Hard-Rock; Soul and Blues greats; Funk and Reggae- you often have to look hard and embrace lots of different musicians. No such issue when it comes to J.J. Rosa: an artist who effortlessly plays across the genres; fusing sounds and decades together- a cross-pollinating artist that is among the most arresting in the music world. It is perhaps those guitar chops that have invigorated critics so. It might be foolhardy to make Hendrix comparisons so early- Hendrix remains the greatest guitarist of all-time- yet Rosa has that innovation and technique; she has a command of the Blues and Rock- if an album does come out; it will be fascinating to see that guitar spread across ten or eleven tracks. There are so few musicians that are as ambitious (as J.J. Rosa) and have such a pedigree and potential. Musicians are enforced and motivated by their musical tastes- the music their parents played and what they love- so the output they project can be a mixed bag. I get downright depressed hearing artists saying the same things and playing the same sounds- as though they all grew up in the same household. With music saturating and exploding; it is natural there is repetition and limitations- true music-loving peeps are looking hard to find a new treasure; someone that differs from what is already out there. With the critics raving and the public already hooked; it will not be too long until the Manchester-born artist is one of the hottest names in all of music. Social media is a good way to get your name out there; to mind there are still flaws and drawbacks. Having looked at J.J. Rosa’s Facebook page; I find so few of her fans comment on her news and developments; fewer still share the music and make it accessible to their friends- it means so many are missing out on some wonder. I hope the musician-cum-model- her arresting looks have been swooped-up by a London model agency- gets more attention and praise as this year progresses. Having been proclaimed and touted by some legendary musicians- tipped as the best Manchester-born musician in years- we need to do more to get her name and music out there. Where is the Mercy (is) a song that shows heart and solidarity with the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks. A brave and bold subject choice; the song shows huge heart and sympathy- whilst not being too depressed and accusatory. It is a song that promotes togetherness and rages against the injustices of the modern world- against terrorists and all they stand for. So few musicians have a political motive and get involved with that side of things- some that do come off as embarrassing and very insincere. J.J. Rosa is a musician that has a great love for the world and its people; she represents the voice and discontent of the population- in a song that is hard to ignore and better. Bringing all her talents and abilities into a single track; it is surely going to lead to some dazzling things. Being such a singular and exceptional voice; social media and music websites need to do more to ensure this musician gets the success she deserves. With that in mind, investigate her music and make sure to…
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