In every subgenre of pop, you could make a pretty good argument that the quality and sincerity of a vocalist will make or break a song’s relatability with the listener. While we all tune into different elements of songs, singers automatically draw so much of our attention when we’re listening to music, especially pop music, that their skillset can often make an excellently constructed arrangement sound like garbage or a totally plain and unmemorable riff sound like the hammer of the gods crashing into the earth. As much as a lot of my fellow critics would like to contend that the last decade has seen the industry putting more of a focus on vocalists than we did ten or even twenty years ago, I really have to disagree. There’s been such a lack of creativity from lead singers that producers and sound engineers have had to get a little zany (and a lot wacky) with their mixing of vocal tracks, resulting in spacy, digitalized singing that sounds more robotic than human. Is it different? Sure, but I’d hardly call it legit singing. It might seem like no one has the courage to be experimental and raw with their voice anymore, but proving that there’s still plenty of tenacity on the indie side of the business is none other than the brilliant Ziarra Washington, who recently teamed with Robert Miller’s Project Grand Slam for the new album Trippin’. If you’re not familiar with the juggernaut that is Project Grand Slam, allow me to help you get acquainted with their brand.
In the song “Lament,” one of the biggest highlights from Trippin’, Washington delivers the most awe inspiring set of vocals this side of the 20th century amid a jazz composition from Miller that has got to be one of the most creatively designed that I’ve ever had the chance to review. You can tell that Washington isn’t trying to overstate her presence in the song, but she really can’t help but steal the spotlight when she starts to croon and share her God given gift of melody with us. She’s a treasure to listen to and certainly makes the song and the record as a whole worth purchasing if only to get a taste of her majestic talent.
Jazz theory is influencing a lot of young artists these days, and that’s something that I think will inevitably help pop music of the future to be a lot more eccentric and exciting than anything we’ve experienced in the past. The freeform nature of jazz when it is broken down to its bare bones takes away all of the limitations of traditional music as we know them and makes the possibility for sonic growth all the more accessible and palatable for performers, and even audiences, of all calibers. Breaking the rules is essential to changing the narrative of history and our collective culture, and I think we’re long overdue for some old fashioned artistic rebellion. The future is now, and Project Grand Slam appear to be at the forefront of it.