Hi folks, I’m still dedicating all my time to finishing my book, already months past due at the publishers.
I noted in a post a long time ago that Jackie is so good we hold her to a higher standard. What would be seen as great in many a lesser artist we see as merely good in Jackie’s body of work.
Also, I’ve not forgotten that Jackie is merely fourteen years old! That not only makes her a wonder by any measure, her singing is so good. It also makes me consider the challenges she faces at this second phase of what might be a four-phase career (pre-teen, teen, young adult, adult). Her voice is developing and she is at the stage in life when one is most self-conscious.
Please keep these things in mind as you read my not always hagiographic assessment.
I’ll be honest, when I first listened to Awakening, I was largely unimpressed, that is, compared to my reaction to Dream WIth Me and Songs of the Silver Screen.
Having listened to Awakening repeatedly, I haven’t entirely changed my opinion. I place it behind the other two albums.
The good: Jackie’s high notes on this album send chills down my spine. Some have that bell-like purity I so love in her earlier work. To my ear, the orchestration and production are fine, not too lush and they do not overwhelm the singing. The song selection is less predictable than the movie songs album, though I think not as inventive as on Dream With Me.
The not so good: Often I hear in this album a less than perfectly smooth transition from low to high notes, but to be fair to Jackie, I hear that as well in the recordings of other great singers. As I mention below, I find that she does not always master expression and sound in her lower register.
Her French on Je’taime is heavily accented, but she pulls it off. She sounds as if she understands the words, even though she is not conversant in the language.
I have mixed feelings about Open Fields of Grace. Jackie conveys emotion. Her high notes are lovely. But I don’t find her voice convincing when she hits the lowest notes. I have the same problem with With or With or Without You.
Ave Maria is undoubtedly a beautiful song. But as a piece of music, I’m as tired of hearing it as I am, say, of the transcendently beautiful Pachelbel’s Canon. One can have too much of a beautiful thing. Yet Jackie’s rendition is lovely. Her high notes carry me away. She seems to struggle with breath control at a few points.
The Rains of Castermere does nothing for me. I’m uninterested in the subject, the lyrics, and the music. Jackie sings it well, but in this rare case she doesn’t overcome what are to me the song’s weaknesses.
What I like about Take Me There and Memories and With You or Without You is that she handles the fast tempo well. Indeed, I think the tempo works to her benefit. There is less evidence in these songs of struggling with breath management. In each she expresses emotion well. Her diction is clear. A few words get lost in the high notes, but that’s a problem many singers have.
Some of us think that Jackie sang many of the songs on Dream With Me and Songs from the Silver Screen so well that we say she owns them. As for Awakening, I cannot say of any of them that hers is the definitive version.
There are, though, in each of the songs on Awakening moments that remind me of what I love in Jackie’s music.
A final word. From what I’ve seen on YouTube, Jackie is developing into a fine onstage performer, more professional and confident. Given that she picked up the instrument herself, her piano playing is fantastic! The girl has talent galore.
I have a ticket to Jackie’s upcoming concert in Toronto. I’ll be sure to post about my experience.