( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) Icelandic-Chinese Jazz Artist Laufey’s Authentic Lyrics and Vocals Resonate With Gen Z
ENSPIRE Contributor: Grace Chai
From the first time I pressed play on a Laufey song, the 24-year-old’s honey-smooth voice transfixed me. It transported me to a place of nostalgia and warmth, which was magical. The Icelandic-Chinese artist hails from Reykjavik, Iceland, and won a 2024 GRAMMY nomination for “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album” with her latest album, “Bewitched.”
A plethora of musical influences characterized Laufey’s childhood. She grew up listening to and playing classical music on the cello, but she also fell in love with jazz, citing Chet Baker and Ella Fitzgerald as inspirations. “Chet Baker is probably the reason I started creating my music and writing my music,” she shared in her GRAMMY interview. “The way he phrases — the way he approaches words, but also solos — I have completely taken that into my kind of musicality.”
She graduated from Berklee College of Music in Boston, right at the pandemic’s heels in 2020. Unable to perform in person, Laufey turned to social media to share her music, including her first single, “Street by Street,” which reached number one on the Icelandic Radio Charts. Conduct a quick Google search on Laufey, and you’ll find dozens of articles about her music’s relatability. This authenticity has endeared her to fans worldwide, including celebrities like Billie Eilish and BTS’s V.
Her lyrics cover the perils of falling in love and discovering who you are, making her music approachable to young listeners, who she hopes to share the joy of jazz with.
Because of the unspoken social norms that go with jazz, she says that it is hard for younger audiences to access jazz.
“I think young kids feel like they need to be educated to speak about it, and to even listen to it,” said Laufey to GRAMMY. “I think it’s done such a disservice to the music that it’s gotten to that point. In the beginning, jazz music was kind of built on freedom from rules — just expression. And it was kind of meant to be something for everybody.”
In addition, she said, “For my first EP [2021’s Typical of Me] and album, I always had this goal and dream of bringing jazz music back to my generation.”
“I think Gen Z is a generation of really, really open-minded individuals, especially when it comes to music. I’ve found that friends and kids this age will listen to anything, really, as long as they can find some sort of line of relatability. That’s what they care about.”
“Even though I’m writing songs that sometimes sound like old jazz standards, the lyrics are very modern; they’re my personal experiences from this day and age. I think that relatability is what connects young listeners.”
Young listeners love her music; she was Spotify’s most streamed jazz artist of the year in 2022 and has sold-out tours in North America, Asia, and Australia.
Also, her new album, “Bewitched,” released in September 2023, reflects Laufey’s continual growth as an artist. It features mellifluous and ethereal vocals in songs like “Dreamer,” while other charts like “From the Start” include bossa nova-inspired guitar licks and percussion, paying homage to Astrud Gilberto’s 1967 album “Beach Samba.”
As Laufey continues to pour fresh creative energy into the art of jazz, the world will be watching, and I am excited for the magic she’ll bring to her future projects.
Watch the 2024 GRAMMYs live on the CBS Television Network and stream on Paramount+.