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Finally Woken
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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2004
This is my first review, and I'm mostly doing it for Miss Gemma Griffiths, aka Jem. I want to get some word out on her behalf, because this is a solid debut album.
I read a review that said this music is "trip-pop," and while I hate stereotypical categories, I am going to have to agree. I am also going to say that Jem will not be able to avoid comparisons to Dido. These two do sound quite similar, athough I find Jem much more palatable for my electronica/alternative tastes.
Jem's voice is so smooth, even ethereal at times, that she could easily be fronting the helm of trip-hop acts like Morcheeba or Massive Attack. The music itself, including the lyrics, is very uptempo and poppy, and I could easily see her being the next big pop star if this had been produced by the Matrix or whoever crappy pop producer is hot these days. There are electronic blips throughout. The beat often has a real hip-hop vibe to it.
"Come On Closer" has a dark string sample and heavy bassline to accompany a backbeat that I've heard in a Cypress Hill song, before the grimy guitar jars in on the chorus. "They," the first single, features a somewhat eerie choral sample throughout the track, providing an interesting backdrop when the drum machine shuffles a quickening beat. "Save Me" uses a reggae-esque guitar and beat over Jem's wailing vocals and beautiful harmonies. These three songs are the ones that stuck with me after only two listens.
I urge you to give Jem a chance if you are a fan of interesting new music. This CD sounds like one that will be good for pumping this Summer.
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76 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2004
Just as Kate Bush did in early rock and Bjork remains a master of, many artists are branching out with a common rock and roll root: To break of all tradition and not be afraid of experimenting, for it is the essence of modern art.
Back in the ninties when artists such as Enya and Yanni offered calming approaches that are nowhere near classical music, they all got crammed into the now-fizzled out category New Age, for the lack of a category one was made to accomodate the 'others.' However, after the gushing of many such artists from Air to Tori Amos, music fans started to notice that this upheaval of new sounds is only the byproduct of the rebeliousness that is rock and pop.
Jem, an up-and-coming modern pop artist, has delivered an EP earlier titled It All Starts Here that showcased far less than what her complete effort, Finally Woken, does. This debut from the Welsh artist, is of no category but borrows heavily from popular genres. A tribute to folk on the lullaby "Flying High" and trip-hop on "Come On Closer." Jem also plays with urban beats with "They" and the reggae-tinted "Save Me."
The fusion of genres is so unique that one song, "24," starts out borrowing from Ani DiFranco strummings then meandering into heavy theatrical instrumentation and then, all of a sudden, right before the chorus sharp guitars bring in edgy rock. All without sounding a tad bit overboard.
Of course Jem's voice plays a big part by delivering an angelic yet quiet tone to the whole album without sounding unexcitingly bland like Dido's. Instead the meloncholy is delivered with consistancy on "Missing You" and "Falling For You," while the giddy is given a kindergarten innocence on the highlight track "Wish I."
"Stay Now" is a masterpiece in its own right, reminiscent of Beth Orton's past victories.
Finally Woken is a complete effort with an assortment of defiant tunes for everbody. Jem (no relation to the fabulous cartoon superhero)is a promising new artist. Skip the EP sampler by Jem and grab a copy of the album and enjoy the many pleasures of the underdog.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2005
heard the 24 song and liked it so I picked up the cd. I was exprecting a whole CD like the 24 track, it's not at all. The hard rock sound of 24 is an abberation compared to the rest of the CD.

Normally getting a cd based on hearing one song that i liked only to find out the rest of the cd sounds nothing like the song that got me to buy it would irritate the hell out of me.

In this case, I am pleasantly surprised. Kind of hard to describe the sound, but it's damn good. Very eclectic. Kind of reminds me of Portishead without the crushing darkness.

Good find
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2004
Well, the short and simple is that this is very cool downtempo stuff and an exceptionally good cd. It also serves as an example of what can help the recording industry. It's not prevalent downloading of music that's causing their financial problems, it's the lack of really good cds; cds that have more than just a couple good tracks and are worth the money record companies charge for them. This cd is an exception. Tracks on it are consistently well written, performed, and produced. There are catchy melody hooks, original and creative structures, and a unique sound for the album. The producers are also aware that unique sounds can get tiresome, but they are experimental enough to keep this from being a problem. One of the earlier reviews criticized the use of a loud guitar riff within one of the tracks, but I argue that it works well and helps cut the possibility of monotony. More than the production, though, the songs themselves are well written and interesting. They could work in a variety of genres, and that is the mark of a well written song. Jem also has a wonderfully seductive voice and delivery style. For what it's worth, some of my favorite tracks are They, Come on Closer, Finally Woken, 24, Wish I, Just a Ride, and Falling for You. It's been a long time since I could list that many favorites on any cd.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2004
I've not been able to stop listening to this CD since I got it. Keep in mind, that "cool music" and the "next big thing" don't typically appeal to me. This CD from Jem is my nominee for album of the year.
When I hear descriptions of trip-hop and comparisons to Dido, I worry that it might be a little mellow for my tastes. But, this offering does not disappoint and several of the tracks rock. There is good production and even a "wall of sound" and layering that builds up through several of the songs.
Six of the tracks, "They", "Come on Closer", "Save Me", "24", "Missing You", and "Falling for You" are all 5/5, and the others are close behind.
"Missing You" reminds me of "Gloomy Sunday" from Heather Nova. "Falling for You" starts off slow, but builds a powerful wall of sound. "24" is practically a rock song that captures the frenetic energy of the TV show. The other songs are mid-tempo, using infectious phrases and melodies that I can't get out of my head.
No matter the tempo or instrumentation, the voice of Jem sounds great throughout !! She has a smooth, sultry quality. Yet it strong enough so that she is not drowned out by the instruments. Basically, she is just enjoyable to listen to.
I hope this CD does well in the States and I wish Jem good luck.
Buy this CD now.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2004
I read about Jem on a message board somewhere, and I checked out her website. That night, I purchased the album at a store nearby, and it really hasn't left my CD player since!
First off, this album is REALLY well produced. The sounds are clear, crisp, consistent. The tones are perfect, the bass has a really nice feel to it.
I don't know how to describe the music exactly, because I don't know of anything else like it. Some say that her voice is like Dido, and I'd partially agree with that. I think Jem is edgier than Dido, and the hip hop beats fit in well with her tone. I'm not a fan of Dido's, but I am a fan of Jem's.
Jem was a DJ before making this album, and again with the production you can really tell! I cannot stress how clear this album is. Instead of that loud brick wall of sound and guitar, she alternates instruments and focus throughout the album to create a smooth disc here!
On a side note, I am thrilled that her album photos are not of some made up pop wannabe. Her photos make her look like a "normal person", and that makes me respect her. She's basically saying to the world - here I am.
The only reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5, is that towards the end of the album the tempo slows some and it loses my attention. At night I don't care about that, but during the day when I'm really digging the upbeat songs it's hard to switch over to a slower one.
I'd give this album the best new album of the year nomination from me!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Well, this is a question that could be debated on the merits of what is defined as "pop" music alone....however as it pertains to Jem and her CD "Finally Woken" I would say the answer is a resounding YES!

I bought the CD based on hearing track #2 "Come on Closer" used in promos for abc's "Desperate Houswives" I liked it, so on a lark, found it on amazon, listened to some sample tracks and well you know how it goes....point, click, purchase.

I love this cd. I listen to it nearly every day either by way of my car or my "media library" on my pc at work.

Track #1 "They" is infectious and who would have ever thought classical music being sampled for a pop song would be so successful. Track #2 "Come on Closer" (the reason for buying the cd in the first place) is sexy, sensual and seductive. Track #3 the title track, is light and invokes images of sitting beachside in an adirondack (sp?) with a cool breeze and a chill in the air, with a hot cup of tea, wrapped up in a blanket watching the sun come up. Track #4 has a reggae (sp?) feeling in the beginning, a good beat and the lyrics themselves I found to be very applicable on harried days at the office....I could go on and on, track #5 24 sings of someone about to be executed, its intense beat drives the point home with the countdown of hours and expresses the imperative to live for now. I love this cd. I highly recommend it to any pop fan.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
From the homeland of Tom Jones and Catherine Zeta-Jones comes the next new Welsh sensation, a sweet young one-named songwriter known as Jem. Having written a song for none other than Madonna for her "American Life" album, Jem's aptly named debut album "Finally Woken" showcases her considerable talent under her own spotlight.

The first song "They" was an immediate radio hit, with its unique and catchy intro and choral hook, blended with a little Hip Hop. The next single "Just a Ride" is also a radio friendly pop track, with a good beat and smooth vocals, and can be found on the "Monster in Law" soundtrack.

Other buzz-worthy tracks are "Come on Closer" with a little similarity to Dido; the title track; the emotional ballad "Missing You"; the reggae backed "Save Me"; the sweetly melodic "Stay Now"; and the retro "Wish I".

A great easy-listening pop album, from a girl who can both sing and write great songs. Look out for more from Jem.

Amanda Richards, September 2, 2005
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2004
Imagine you are trying to find a station on your radio and it starts to pick up Martian disco music that's been translated into English. Or imagine that sexy James Bond movie opening number that makes you salivate in anticipation for the coolness that's to come. I first heard Jem as Artist of the Week on our local alternative station, then "They" went into heavy rotation. I thought that song was so exciting and new that I had to buy the CD. I think people who like Prince, Annie Lennox, and Bjork would like Jem more than people into Dido; vocally, she might sound like Dido but her music isn't in the Sarah Maclachlan/Dido lovely voiced, diary-like musings on love and life that these artists are famous for. With Jem, her actual singing voice is not the real draw, although it's pretty; what is new is her space-age sound that isn't like anything I've heard before. It's very accessible and catchy, with excellent hooks, capable of shifting your moods kaleidoscopically from sexiness to slyness to melancholy to anger to happy-go-lucky. Still, it never slides into anything remotely resembling bubble-gum pop. It's stylish, sophisticated, and just wowed me. Favorite cuts: "They," "Come Closer," "24," and "Wish I."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2004
I just happened to be browsing through CDs at my local Borders and saw Jem as a featured CD at a listening station and gave it a quick listen. I found myself listening to each track and I knew I had to have this CD. It is exactly what Dido's new CD should have been, but wasn't. The Dido sound is much more expanded here with more experimental infusion of rock, regaee, electronic beeps, and even 60s/70s lounge like samples. Jem's voice, ironically, sounds alot like Dido's or Beth Orton. I brought this CD to work and everyone throuroughly enjoyed listening to it over the BOSE speakers in the office. My personal favorite track is "Save Me" - very catchy, regaee and mid-tempo bass infused tune that is great to drive with in the summer with the sunroof up!
In short, this is one of the best finds of the year. I would also recommend Toby Lightman as another wonderful addition to your sophisticated CD collection.
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