Jessie Reyez: Toronto’s ‘Kiddo' Is Growing Up Fast
In a musical landscape that is seemingly one Spotify playlist away from being over saturated, finding an artist that displays a true range of artistry often feels like an achievement. For some, artistry comes natural and their music is a platform to voice their innermost thoughts and feelings in a brutally honest means of expression. For others, music is simply their avenue of choice to showcase their ability to keep up with the latest social media trend. Whichever the case may be, time is always kind to those who put their soul into their creative passion and for Jessie Reyez, those words could not be truer.
The Colombian-rooted, Toronto-native captured everyone’s attention when the 28-year-old put her soul on display throughout the entirety of her 2017 EP titled ‘Kiddo’ and she hasn’t looked back since. Reyez’s spirituous vocals and unfiltered storytelling ability put her with the likes of the late Amy Winehouse, but the 2018 Juno award winner (Breakthrough Artist of the Year) has a particularly intense flame igniting her music, as well as the future ahead of her.
After headlining Montreal’s International Jass Festival, Reyez made her way down to Lansing, Michigan for the annual Common Ground Music Festival just two days later and brought the same level of attitude and charisma one would often only expect to see from veteran’s in the music industry. After opening her set with “F**k It” and “Shutter Island,” Jessie soon after apologized for her use of profane language to any parents attending the concert with children, but also eloquently explained that the words were just a tool for her to passionately emphasize her lyrics. The crowd favorite “Hard to Love” helped set a mellow mood for the rest of her performance and by the time she made her way to “Phone Calls,” I realized I was already halfway through my roll of film which is either proof that I’m a bit trigger-happy when behind the camera or proof that Jessie Reyez is undeniably dominant when she gets on stage. In this case, it was both.
Reyez slowed things down a bit with “Body Count” and “Cotton Candy” followed by a medley of cover songs, including ScHoolboy Q’s “That Part” and Drake’s “Headlines” before making her way to the gut-wrenching track “Gatekeeper,” a song where Reyez describes the time a music producer offered her a “golden ticket” into the music industry in exchange for sex. This was the part of the show where Jessie Reyez’s indisputable talent was on full display which brings me back to the point I made earlier about ‘genuine artistry.’ My opinion of the current landscape in music isn’t a knock against artists who aren’t capable of writing songs from a place of honesty and integrity nearly as much as it is praise for the artists who are capable of doing so.
You can tell “Gatekeeper” is still a meaningful song to Reyez not only by the way she sings the record, but also by the way she subtly hits her cheek with the side of her fist as if she’s reminding the audience that she is, indeed, as tough as she says she is. If her performance wasn’t enough, Reyez went on to explain the meaning of the song to audience members who may not have been familiar with her story and spotted something out of the corner of her eye.
A young woman in the audience was so touched by what Reyez was saying that she was moved to tears and, being the passionate artist that she is, Reyez leaped off of the stage to console the fan and share a private conversation with the young woman. After returning to the stage, Reyez reminded the crowd that her music was made for people like that young woman and that she was inspired by all of the other brave women in attendance. After continuing her passionate conversation about women’s empowerment, equal rights, and not being afraid to chase your dreams while also standing up for yourself in the process, Reyez led the crowd in a powerful chant. “The ‘Me Too’ movement is not fucking new! The ‘Me Too’ movement is not fucking new! The ‘Me Too’ movement is not fucking new!”
Reyez has been quoted as describing her music as “violent soul music” while also calling it “romantic, bloody, heaven, [and] hell” which is the best and, likely, only way to describe it as she has also been quoted as referencing film director Quentin Tarantino as one of her creative influences. Best known for a distinct level of vulnerability and honesty in her lyrics, Jessie Reyez is matched by nobody else in music right now and her bravado, demeanor, and hustle are what truly catapults her to the top of the class. The boldness and straightforwardness in her lyrics are not up for debate and her ability to also create “anti-shame, anti-judge” anthems take her talents to a level of freedom to which I’m sure any criticism is met with a fitting reply of, “Fuck it.”
With “Figures” recording over 27 million plays on Spotify and two songs that have charted on Billboard’s Rhythmic Songs Top 40 chart, the Toronto-native has seen her talent take her to an almost unimaginable place thus far in her career. “When people talk about this last year, it almost seems like a lie. I’m scared someone’s going to wake me up and say, ‘Just kidding!’”
Reyez will return north to rest, I presume, while also preparing for the release of her forthcoming full-length LP, or maybe she won’t. This type of success is rare in music and Jessie appears to be aware of that. Regardless of what her next steps are, Jessie Reyez isn’t a ‘kiddo’ anymore and she is here to remind everyone of that in a powerful way.