Even if you don’t know her by name, you’ve definitely heard her music recently within the past few months. Having just released her newest album, The Fool, French singer-songwriter JAIN continues to expand in popularity worldwide, perhaps more so than in her native France. That’s not to say she’s a small act back home. Her last album, Soldier, went double platinum in France and proved she was far from an underappreciated artist looking for a big break. And in the unpredictable Internet motions, her already hit single “Makeba” took off on TikTok recently, further spreading her name.
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On the title track and opener to The Fool, JAIN’s accented vocals make for another earworm pop single alongside twee lyrics and fantastical imagery. Understandably so, it’s garnered millions of streams, most likely because it bears a strong resemblance to pop music in the States. But to her credit, she’s not taking after any number of big-name artists’ styles. The slow thumping of the drums, which come crawling out of pleasant strings, transitions to a pop/electronic beat that JAIN makes all her own.
2016’s “Makeba” is the best example of JAIN’s musical diversity and calls back to her upbringing in the United Arab Emirates and Congo. Instantly recognizable by that first “ooh-ee,” it recently surged in popularity after already being among her most popular songs and having a featured spot on a Levi’s commercial. JAIN pays tribute to Miriam Makeba, a South African singer-songwriter who successfully crossed over to the US, much like herself, and shaped the sound of soul music. But “Makeba” is not quite a soul track, leaning heavily into pop conventions and tastefully combining elements of world music, all while singing in multiple languages.
As expected for an artist well-known in multiple countries, JAIN is in the midst of a summer festival tour and has a fall tour already lined up. That’s not a reason to overshadow The Fool, an album she described as “a love story” born from recent relationship developments. “I just started to write and sing nonstop,” JAIN said about the album. “It feels like a fresh start for me as a woman. A lot of things have happened in my life, [and] I feel more at ease with myself than before.” The music sure reflects those positive changes, maintaining the confidence from before without forgetting how she makes pop sound unique to her.
Words: David Sosa