REVIEW: Jesse Lynn Madera — Unchained (SINGLE)
Jesse Lynn Madera is back with her latest offering, “Unchained,” a downbeat, somber country track that sees the singer-songwriter covering Johnny Cash’s 1996 song of the same name. The track is guitar-forward, with a simple, yet effective arrangement that supports Madera’s emotional vocals. The accompanying lyric music video is a beautiful visualizer for the song, featuring imagery of flowers growing through cracked pavement among the words.
Madera’s growth as an artist between projects is evident in “Unchained.” While her debut album, Fortunes, showcased her diverse range of musical influences and genres, “Unchained” feels like a step forward in terms of her emotional depth and storytelling. Madera’s ability to infuse her music with powerful lyrics that are introspective and thought-provoking is a testament to her talent and versatility as an artist.
The track opens with a soft acoustic guitar that sets the tone for Madera’s emotive vocals to take center stage. The lyrics are poignant and heartfelt, with Madera asking for a weight to be lifted so her spirit can be unchained. The simplicity of the arrangement allows the listener to focus on Madera’s vocals, which are haunting and powerful in equal measure, and greatly complement the original, which works in a different way as it sees Cash singing solo with the help of piano and guitar — the difference in arrangements gives the cover a lot of room to breathe and grow in its own regard.
As the track progresses, the guitar seldom becomes more prominent, never choosing to build towards a climax — the simplicity of the track speaks for itself in this way, giving Madera the opportunity to make the track her own without ever feeling as though she’s trying to eclipse an obvious classic. The production debut of singer-songwriter powerhouse, Dan Navarro (Lowen & Navaro), and engineering by multi-GRAMMY award-winner, Jim Scott (Tom Petty, Sting, and The Bangles) add an extra layer of polish and professionalism to the track.
The accompanying lyric music video is a visual treat for listeners, with imagery of flowers growing through cracked pavement serving as a metaphor for the themes of the song — The juxtaposition of beauty and decay is a powerful representation of the emotional weight that Madera is trying to break free from. The way that Madera uses the lyric video to further claim the track as her own is a powerful move, and it works. There are surely going to be a good deal of listeners who see this as a Jesse Lynn Madera track first, almost like Johnny Cash pulled with his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”
What sets Madera apart from other artists is her ability to blend genres seamlessly. While “Unchained” is a downbeat country ballad, Madera’s influences range from pop to folk, blues, Americana, and jazz. It’s this diversity that makes her music so compelling and unique.
Overall, “Unchained” is an exceptional track that showcases Jesse Lynn Madera’s talent as a singer, songwriter, and musician. Her growth as an artist between projects is evident, with “Unchained” feeling like a step forward in terms of her emotional depth and storytelling. With her forthcoming album Belle Sent Me set to release in 2023, it’s clear that Madera is poised to become a leading voice in the indie music industry.