Laufey brings Generation Z back to vintage jazz | Characteristics

In 1960, in West Berlin, Ella Fitzgerald stood on stage in front of thousands of people. She was unlike any singer – not just one of the greatest in jazz, but far beyond most of the American music industry. She captivated the crowd who gazed at her in awe, ready for her infectious energy to bleed.

Her set came to a playful interlude where she presented “Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin. “We didn’t hear a girl sing it,” she said, chaining the audience with her words as she walked over to the unheard number. The ease she gave off was palpable and everyone settled into the heat like children cuddling around a Christmas fire.

Its start was strong, rising through the line with perfect intonation. As she got down to it halfway, it dawned on her that she didn’t know the lyrics. For anyone, that would be disastrous. But not to Fitzgerald. When she hit the chorus, she didn’t stumble. His lyrics became a frenzy of absurd lyrics – the singular jazz style called scatting. It was a technique known to some, but Fitzgerald made it famous around the world.

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But 2021 brings a different era of music. In a world obsessed with Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, pop and hip-hop, jazz is slipping lower and lower down the slope. But for 22 years Laufey, Icelandic-Chinese musician, jazz is not dead. “The fast strings and stories of jazz standards took me to a different world – a very magical world where time hardly existed. “

In 2020, during the lockdown, Laufey released his debut EP “Typical Of Me” after the single “Like The Movies” exploded on TikTok. It wasn’t until young people started commenting on her videos, amazed at the vintage sound of her voice, that she realized people weren’t familiar to her.

“My twin sister has been spending a lot of time on TikTok and she said, ‘Go on TikTok! So many people are posting singing videos and they’re going viral and you should give it a try – I’m sure something cool would happen! ‘ And I was like, ‘No, nothing will ever happen, but I might as well try.’ “

After growing up on Instagram, Laufey posted some of his videos on TikTok. She had just written her single, “Like The Movies”, and a short clip of it has been viewed nearly two million times. The comments were obsessed with the “calming” sound of her voice and how it was as if “milk and honey” were sound. In a way, in 2021, timeless jazz was back.

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According to a Forbes study, Generation Z is listening to more diverse music than ever before: 97% of women regularly listen to at least five genres. Last year, studies explored the resurgence of disco music – when Dua Lipa released “Future Nostalgia” and Silk Sonic rocked in flares and beige suit jackets, the world wondered if he had woken up in the 70s. As TikTok becomes one of the hottest apps, it begins to shape our social trends. From now on, it is not only the Bee Gees and ABBA who resurface, we go back to the 1940s to rediscover swing, bebop jazz.

“It was my first taste of having new followers,” Laufey said. “People who maybe had no interest in jazz or that kind of music.

“TikTok is set up really well for that. I really like it, it’s like discovering music. I was getting all these comments from young adults and teenagers saying to me, ‘Oh, that sounds like something that my grandma was playing for me! ”or, ‘It sounds like something from an old movie!’ Even people who said it sounds like Christmas music, and I was like “Yeah, it sounds like Christmas music, but all year round! It’s the best!”

A small community made up of people who loved nostalgia. Videos have gone viral to recreate traditional jazz. Designer Rachel Chui has put together a series called “The Trumpet of the Mouth” – a video channel where she perfectly copies a trumpet for swing covers. Ricky Rosen, 22, produces videos covering traditional swing songs like “La Vie En Rose” and “It’s Been A Long, Long Time”. The comments on his videos are largely the same – people are passing out – but it confirms one thing: jazz has never experienced such a revival.

“It brought people together,” Laufey said. “It gave a lot of people a familiar feeling of longing for some sort of old time. Especially during COVID, or during the peak of the lockdown, people were looking for that escape that jazz gave me.

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“I think in a lot of ways, a kind of music that didn’t sound like today’s was very compelling – it brought you into a new world. One that has not been plagued by COVID-19. So after that I kept posting and it started rolling and it was really cool.

“I love TikTok because I can present stuff to people. My goal as a musician is to take classical and jazz music – those kind of archaic styles of music that young people don’t know that well – and make it relevant and cool again. Or put it back into their musical palettes. And TikTok is a great way to do that. Probably, in recent years, one of the only ways to quickly reach Gen Z. “

TikTok, different from other social media apps, shows videos from people you don’t follow. As hashtags and topics trending, it filters the content for each user. The For You page, known as FYP, displays videos from across the app, making it easier for creators to go viral.

“The idea, as everyone knows, is that you’re not just presenting your content to people who are already following you. You present it to people who the TikTok algorithm says might like it. So it seems to me that I’ve reached a lot of hopeless romantics – even if they don’t like jazz, they really want to see a song I wrote about it.

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At a time when a deadly virus threatens the world, life has not been normal. If nostalgia did not exist before, it has increased considerably. We have had time to dream – to play a memory game even as we are heading into a time we have never lived. The music of the ’70s is back for good – the unbridled joy of a disco tune, the jumped necklaces, the flashing kaleidoscope lights – maybe traditional jazz will come back the same way.

“I get a lot of comments like, ‘Oh, what style of music is this? This is so cool. I love the sound and want to listen to more of it, but I don’t know what it is. ‘ So right in front of my eyes in the comments and interactions, I actually see people enjoying it more and more and learning how to consume it. And I think it’s just the coolest thing there is.

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But even though it was less obvious, jazz left a trail of breadcrumbs behind. Ella Fitzgerald was legendary – by the end of her performance in West Berlin people were shocked. Singers were not considered musicians in the same way as instrumentalists, because they only had words to sing. But Fitzgerald’s breathtaking artistry proved that the singers were capable of the same technique as the band members. From Lady Gaga to Lana Del Rey, she has inspired a new generation of female singers to push their limits and explore their style.

“The kind of jazz I’m into is definitely an old tradition,” Laufey said. “A very standard tradition – a lot of vocal jazz and standards from musicals because that’s kind of my main love. But then there’s all kinds of jazz – I’ve been to Berklee and there were a lot of people experimenting with really technical instrumental jazz that I’m horrified to tackle because it’s so difficult. But I just hope it can all come together and continue to evolve without rules.

“The only way for these styles to evolve is to allow new influences to enter. It’s my goal to write songs that are my experiences as a 22 year old in 2021, so it’s simple. We must allow new stories to be told.

“A lot of people tell me I was born in the wrong century or the wrong time, and they couldn’t be more wrong. There is no other time when I would rather be a 22 year old woman.

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Words: Sophie mcvinnie
Photography: Rachel Lipsitz

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