I always say that I have unexpected musical tastes for a mid-to-late 30s guy. But really, once people get to know me, predicting what I will like when it comes to music gets pretty easy (female, hooky melody, good beat that you can dance too). Of course, there are notable exceptions, but this description can sum up about 85% of what I enjoy. But every now and again, I love to throw in a curve ball, and this is where Polish "jazz" singer Basia comes in quite handy.
I should not like Basia, yet I am completely unable to resist her music. She is the type of artist that probably gets played on those annoying Sunday morning "smooth jazz" radio shows that used to be so popular back in the late 90s when I used to listen to the radio. But somehow, Basia manages to blend jazz, bossa nova and elevator music into a such a palatable package. It hurts not one little bit that she has a unique voice and the type of vocal chops that are sadly missing amongst many of the divas and would-be divas these days. She released a trio of albums in the late 80s/early 90s, culminating with 1994's excellent The Sweetest Illusion which pretty much defined the last two weeks of that school year and is my favorite of all her albums. But after that, there was nothing but a live album and the obligatory best-of package. After that, Basia seemed to disappear.
Until now. In yet another unexpected turn of events, I found out the other night that Basia has a brand spanking new album, It's That Girl Again - and it's been out since March!! Well, I went to eMusic and picked it up and started listening to it. I was underwhelmed at first, feeling like it didn't really hold a candle to her previous work, even though it had everything I'd come to expect from a Basia album. But that's when I got to thinking about my reactions to all of Basia's previous albums. Although I enjoy the hell out of all of them now, I remember disliking each and every one of them on first listen, even The Sweetest Illusion. The fact of the matter is that all of Basia's albums are growers, and really, this is a good thing.
My far and away favorite of the songs is the album opener "If Not Now, Then When" which is guaranteed a place on my year end best of list. I love how Basia is so clever in vocal stylings, she has a way with a lyric that few artists can achieve. Other standouts are "Blame It On The Summer" and "Everybody's On The Move." Really, the whole first 2/3rds of the album is high quality. After that it falters some, starting with the song "Winners" which sounds like "weiners" the way she sings it. But give me time, and I'll grow to like even that.
Still 66.6% of a Basia album is better than no Basia album at all. It's one of my favorite releases this year, especially since I have been so underwhelmed by music this year. It was even better because I didn't know it was coming. In this day and age of leaks and hearing an album 3 weeks before it is released, this was so refreshing.
Naturally, this new album has prompted a great deal of renewed interest in previous Basia albums. "Time & Tide" was her breakout and still one of my favorites. And she is gorgeous in this video.