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Jamiroquai

Band from London

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Virtual Insanity

Jamiroquai

Jamiroquai Biography

Jamiroquai are an English funk and acid jazz band from London. Formed in 1992, they are fronted by vocalist Jay Kay, and were prominent in the London-based funk and acid jazz movement of the 1990s. They built on their acid jazz sound in their early releases and later drew from rock, disco, electronic and Latin music genres. Lyrically, the group have addressed social and environmental justice. Kay has remained as the only original member through several line-up changes. History   1992–1993: Formation and Emergency on Planet Earth Jay Kay was sending songs to record companies, including a hip-hop single released in 1986 under the label StreetSounds. During this time, Kay was i...

Jamiroquai are an English funk and acid jazz band from London. Formed in 1992, they are fronted by vocalist Jay Kay, and were prominent in the London-based funk and acid jazz movement of the 1990s. They built on their acid jazz sound in their early releases and later drew from rock, disco, electronic and Latin music genres. Lyrically, the group have addressed social and environmental justice. Kay has remained as the only original member through several line-up changes.

History

 

1992–1993: Formation and Emergency on Planet Earth

Jay Kay was sending songs to record companies, including a hip-hop single released in 1986 under the label StreetSounds. During this time, Kay was influenced by Native American and First Nation peoples and their philosophies; this led to the creation of "When You Gonna Learn", a song covering social issues. After he had it recorded, Kay fought with his producer, who took out half the lyrics and produced the song based on what was charting at the time. With the track restored to his preference, the experience helped Kay realise he "wanted a proper live band with a proper live sound". The band would be named "Jamiroquai", a portmanteau of the words "jam" and the name of a Native American confederacy, the Iroquois. He was signed to Acid Jazz Records in 1991 after he sent a demo tape of himself covering a song by the Brand New Heavies. Kay gradually gathered band members, including Wallis Buchanan, who played the didgeridoo. Kay's manager scouted keyboardist Toby Smith, who joined the group as Kay's songwriting partner. In 1992, Jamiroquai began their career by performing in the British club scene. They released "When You Gonna Learn" as their debut single, charting outside the UK Top 50 on its initial release. In the following year, Stuart Zender became the band's bassist by audition.

After the success of "When You Gonna Learn", the band were offered major-label contracts. Kay signed a one-million-dollar, 8-album record deal with Sony Soho2. He was the only member under contract, but he would share his royalties with his band members in accordance to their contributions as musicians. Their label for US releases would be under the Work Group. The band released their debut album, Emergency on Planet Earth, where it entered the UK albums chart at number 1. Kevin L. Carter of The Philadelphia Inquirer commented that the album "is full of upbeat, multi-hued pop tunes based heavily in acid jazz, '70s fusion, funk and soul, reggae and world music". With it, the band would continue to build upon their acid-jazz sounds in the following years. The album's ecologically charged concept gave Kay press coverage, although Mark Jenkins of The Washington Post found the record's sloganeering "as crude as the music is slick".

1994–2000: The Return of the Space CowboySynkronized

Jay Kay performing with Jamiroquai, c. 1995

The band's original drummer, Nick van Gelder, failed to return from holiday and he was replaced by Derrick McKenzie, who recorded with the group in one take for his audition. They issued their second album, The Return of the Space Cowboy, in 1994, and it ranked at number 2 in the UK chart. During its recording, Kay was in a creative block, worsened by his increasing drug use at the time, which resulted in its complex songwriting. However, the record was said to have "capture[ed] this first phase of Jamiroquai at their very best", according to Daryl Easlea of BBC Music. Josef Woodard from Entertainment Weekly wrote that its "syncopated grooves and horn-lined riffs" were "played by humans, not samplers".

Released in 1996, Travelling Without Moving reached number 24 in the Billboard 200 and number 2 in the UK albums chart. With 8 million copies sold worldwide, it is currently listed in the Guinness World Records as the best-selling funk album in history. The album's lead single, "Virtual Insanity", gained popularity for its music video, where it was heavily played on MTV. Containing symphonic and jungle elements, Kay aimed for a more accessible sound. Ted Kessler of NME saw Travelling Without Moving as an improvement from previous albums, while critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine commented that it did not have "uniform consistenc[ies]" in comparison.

While the group were preparing their fourth album, Synkronized (1999), Zender left Jamiroquai due to internal conflicts with Kay. While Zender had not been involved in the album's songwriting, the group chose to scrap his recorded tracks to avoid lawsuits, and Nick Fyffe was recruited for new sessions. This resulted in what was thought to be both a "tighter, more angry collection of songs" for Synkronized, and a change of musical direction from "creating propulsive collections of [long] tunes, [and] speaking out against injustice". Some of the album's tracks, including "Canned Heat", display a hi-NRG and house style, while slower tempos on others were said to "ease the pressure for [Kay's] more romantic musings". The album ranked number 1 in the UK albums chart and number 28 in the US Billboard 200. A year prior to Synkronized, "Deeper Underground" was released as a single for the Godzilla soundtrack and reached number one in the UK singles chart.

2001–2016: A Funk OdysseyRock Dust Light Star

Kay, Harris, McKenzie and Paul Turner performing at the Congress Theater in Chicago, 2005

The group issued their 2001 follow-up, A Funk Odyssey, a disco record exploring Latin music influences. It introduced guitarist Rob Harris, whose playing in the album "melts seductively into a mix that occasionally incorporates lavish orchestration", according to Jim Abbot of Orlando Sentinel. Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani claimed: "Like its predecessors, Odyssey mixes self-samplage with Jamiroquai’s now-signature robo-funk." The album topped the chart in the UK. In the US, under Epic Records, it reached number 44 in the US Billboard 200. It was the last album to feature Smith, who left the band in the following year to spend more time with his family.

Their sixth album, Dynamite, was released in 2005 and reached number 3 in the UK, Rashod D. Ollison of The Baltimore Sun said the album "boasts a harder digital edge... With heavier beats, manipulated guitar lines and odd digital textures, Dynamite is less organic than Jamiroquai's other efforts". Its tracks "Feels Just Like It Should" and "Love Blind" were characterised as "[having] a fatter, dirtier sound than usual". In 2006, Kay's contract with Sony ended, which led to the issue of the band's greatest hits collection, High Times: Singles 1992–2006. It charted at number one in the UK after its first week of release. The following year, Jamiroquai performed at the Gig in the Sky, a concert held on a private Boeing 757 in association with Sony Ericsson. The band thus currently holds the Guinness World Record for "fastest concert", performed on the aircraft whilst travelling at 1,017 km/h (632 mph).

Rock Dust Light Star was released in 2010 under Mercury Records, where it charted at number 7 in the UK. Kay considered the album as a "a real band record" that "capture[s] the flow of our live performances". Critics have seen this as a return to their organic funk and soul style, as it forgoes "the electro textures that followed the band into the new millennium", according to Luke Winkie of MusicOMH. It also has a sound Thomas H. Green of The Telegraph described as "Californian Seventies funk rock".

 

2017–present: Automaton

Jamiroquai released their 2017 album, Automaton, under Virgin EMI. It was their eighth studio album and the first in seven years, reaching number 4 in the UK. It was produced by Kay and band keyboardist Matt Johnson, and it "carefully balance[s] their signature sound with… EDM, soul and trap sounds", according to Ryan Patrick of Exclaim!. Craig Jenkins of Vulture writes: "Arrangements that used to spill out over horn, flute, didgeridoo, and string accompaniments now lean closer to French house". By 2018, the group's line-up consisted of Kay, Harris, McKenzie, Johnson, Paul Turner on bass guitar, and percussionist Sola Akingbola.

Artistry

 

Musical style and influences

Jamiroquai is generally termed as acid-jazz, funk, disco, soul, house, and R&B. Their sound has been described by J.D. Considine as having an "anything-goes attitude, an approach that leaves the band open to anything". Tom Moon wrote that the band "embrac[es] old-school funk, Philly-soul strings, the crisp keyboard sounds of the '70s and even hints of jazz fusion," blending these with "agitated, aggressive dance rhythms to create an easygoing feel that looks both backward and forward". Ben Sisario facetiously commented that Jay Kay and Toby Smith as songwriters, "studied Innervisions-era Wonder carefully, and just about everything the group has recorded sounds like it could in fact have been played by [Wonder] himself."

Kay is the primary songwriter of Jamiroquai. When composing, he sings melodies and beats for band members to transcribe to their instrumentation. The band relies on analog sounds, such as running keyboards through vintage effects pedals "to get the warmth and the clarity of those instruments". Parry Gettelman of The Orlando Sentinel described Kay's vocals as "not identifiably male or female, black or white". Other writers said Toby Smith's keyboard arrangements were "psychedelic and soulful", and compared Stuart Zender's bass playing to the work of Marcus Miller. Wallis Buchanan on didgeridoo was met with either praise or annoyance from critics.

Kay was influenced by Roy Ayers, Herbie Hancock, Lou Donaldson, Grant Green, Sly Stone, Gil Scott-Heron, and hip-hop and its culture. His main inspiration however was from his mother Karen Kay, who "liked brassy in-your-face music, most importantly music with soul--and as a result, so do I." A 2003 compilation titled Late Night Tales: Jamiroquai under Azuli Records, also contains a selection of some of the band's late 1970s R&B, disco and quiet storm influences. Kay and the group have been compared to Stevie Wonder, with some critics accusing the band of copying black artists. In response, Kay said "we never tried to hide our influences". The band references them as Kay maintained Jamiroquai's own sound: "it's about the style of music you aim for, not the exact sound. If you just sample Barry White or Sly Stone, that's one thing; to get their spirit is different."

Lyrics

"'Virtual Insanity'… was a very prescient song I wrote and things like Dolly the Sheep happened right after. I think the ideas in that song are maybe even more relevant today than they were back then."

—Kay speaking about the track in regard to the group's social topics, 2013

Jamiroquai's lyrics has touched on socially charged themes. With Emergency on Planet Earth (1993), it revolves around environmental awareness and speaks out against war. The Return of the Space Cowboy (1994) contains themes of homelessness, Native American rights, youth protests, and slavery. "Virtual Insanity" from Travelling Without Moving (1996) is about the prevalence of technology and the replication and simulation of life. The lyrics of Automaton (2017) allude to dystopian films and compromised relationships within a digital landscape.

However, critics wrote that the band had focused more on "boy–girl seductions" and "having fun" rather than social justice, and that Kay's interest in sports cars contradicts his earlier beliefs. Kay was reluctant to release Travelling Without Moving (1996), as it adopted a motorcar concept,[lower-alpha 1] but he added: "just because I love to drive a fast car, that doesn't mean I believe in [destroying the environment.]" He also stated in separate interviews he was tired of being "[a] troubadour of social conscious[ness]", and "after a while you realise that people won't boogie and dance to [politics]."

 

Stage and visuals

Jamiroquai performing at the O2 in London, 2017. Left to right: Matt Johnson, Rob Harris (foreground), Jay Kay and Sola Akingbola.

While critics said the group tended towards 1970s' funk and soul tropes in their performances, Kay's presence received praise, with critics noting his strong vocals and energetic dance moves on stage. Robert Hilburn said Kay "establish[es] a rapport with the audience" and has a "disarming sense of humor". Helen Brown of The Telegraph was more critical, writing of a 2011 concert that there was no "deeply personal emotion" in its set list or in Kay's vocals, and "much of the material is exhilarating in the moment, forgettable thereafter".

With their visual style being described as "sci-fi and futuristic", Jamiroquai's music video of "Virtual Insanity" made them "icons of the music-video format", according to Spencer Kornhaber from The Atlantic. It was directed by Jonathan Glazer, and depicted Kay "perform[ing] in a room where the floors, walls and furniture all moved simultaneously."

Kay has worn elaborate head-gear, some he designed himself. He said that the head-gear is part of his stage persona and give him a spiritual power described by the Iroquois as "orenda". The illuminating helmet that appears in the music video for "Automaton" was designed by Moritz Waldemeyer for Kay to control its lights and movements and to portray him as an endangered species. Kay also wore Native American head-dresses, which was met with criticism by Indian Country Today, commenting he had worn sacred regalia of the First Nations.

Legacy

"Miraculously, Jamiroquai managed to survive the acid-jazz crash of the early 90's, when kids traded mellow sounds like the Brand New Heavies, Young Disciples and Guru for the bed-of-nails wails of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam."

Paper, 1997

As a prominent component within the London-based funk and acid-jazz movement of the 1990s, writer Kenneth Prouty said: "few acid jazz groups have reached the level of visibility in the pop music mainstream as London-born Jamiroquai". The success of the 1996 single "Virtual Insanity" led to the climax of "1970s soul and funk that early acid jazz artists had initiated". The band were also credited for popularising the didgeridoo. Artists who mention the group as an influence include Chance the Rapper, SZA, Kamaal Williams, the Internet, Calvin Harris, and Tyler, the Creator. According to Tony Farsides of The Guardian, "Jamiroquai's musical prowess goes largely ignored. Whilst the band have received plaudits from American heavyweights such as Quincy Jones and Maurice White of Earth, Wind And Fire, Jamiroquai fight to be taken seriously in the UK." Writing for the same newspaper, Ian Gittins said the group "have long been shunned by music's tastemakers for a perceived naffness, and have shown their utter disregard for this critical snobbery by getting bigger and bigger". Sisario gave a negative review of the band's discography in The Rolling Stone Album Guide in 2004, finding much of their material to be identical.

Jamiroquai were the third-best-selling UK act of the 1990s after the Spice Girls and Oasis. As of April 2017, they have sold more than 26 million albums worldwide. Despite finding popularity in the UK with high-charting albums, the band could not maintain their relevance in the United States. The band's studio albums became less frequently released. Kay said in 2013: "I will only put out an album now when I am inspired to do so".

Members

Current members
  • Jay Kay – lead vocals
  • Derrick McKenzie – drums
  • Sola Akingbola – percussion
  • Rob Harris – guitar
  • Matt Johnson – keyboards
  • Paul Turner – bass
Former members
  • Gary Barnacle – saxophone, flute
  • Simon Bartholomew – guitar
  • Wallis Buchanan – didgeridoo
  • D-Zire – DJ
  • Gavin Dodds – guitar
  • Richard Edwards – trombone
  • Nick Fyffe – bass
  • Nick Van Gelder – drums
  • Kofi Karikari – percussion
  • Simon Katz – guitar
  • Glenn Nightengale – guitar
  • Maurizio Ravalico – percussion
  • Toby Smith – keyboards (died 2017 )
  • John Thirkell – trumpet, flugelhorn
  • Stuart Zender – bass


Source : Wikipedia
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Jamiroquai Discography

  • 1991AlbumEmergency On Planet Earth
  • 1993AlbumEmergency On Planet Earth (Remastered)
  • 1994AlbumThe Return of the Space Cowboy (Bonus Track Version)
  • 1994AlbumThe Return of the Space Cowboy (Remastered)
  • 1995SingleStillness in Time
  • 1996AlbumTravelling Without Moving (20th Anniversary Edition) [2016 Remaster]
  • 1997AlbumTravelling Without Moving
  • 1999SingleCanned Heat (Radio Edit)
  • 1999AlbumSynkronized
  • 1999AlbumSynkronized (Bonus Track Version)
  • 2001AlbumA Funk Odyssey
  • 2002AlbumDynamite
  • 2003AlbumLate Night Tales: Jamiroquai (DJ Mix)
  • 2005SingleFeels Just Like It Should (Album Version With New Middle 8)
  • 2006AlbumHigh Times (Singles 1992-2006) [Remastered 2006]
  • 2010AlbumLate Night Tales (Sampler)
  • 2010AlbumLate Night Tales: Jamiroquai (Remastered)
  • 2011SingleDo You Know (feat. Jamiroquai)
  • 2012AlbumRock Dust Light Star
  • 2012AlbumRock Dust Light Star (Bonus Track Version)
  • 2017AlbumAutomaton
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