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Zeeteah Massiah - ‘Bad Guy’ Single Review

/ By Doug Phillips
Zeeteah Massiah - ‘Bad Guy’ Single Review

Zeeteah’s newest release is a genius reggae reimagining of Billie Eilish’s breakthrough hit, ‘Bad Guy’. 

Jeeni ambassador and long-term supporter, Zeeteah Massiah has now provided Jeeni with 21 individual pieces of her unique brand of jazz and reggae, all of which are available at her showcase. Her husband, Paul Caplin acts as both songwriter and producer for Zeeteah and the two of them have released two albums together, ‘Juice’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow’.  

A certain level of musical depth and understanding is needed to undergo a stylistic transformation of an existing song. To some, it’s merely a process of downgrading the intensity and presence of the piece to a slow, acoustic setting. However, in a lot of these cases, the essence and arrangement of the pieces are largely unchanged. On the other end of that spectrum of effort and passion, you’ll find artists like Zeeteah Massiah who listened to the ‘Old Town Road’ dethroner and heard a hidden stylistic potential held in Billie’s hit that she knew would effortlessly make sense to any listener. 

Zeeteah set out to not just echo Billie’s Grammy-winning hit in a slightly different accent, but instead, wanted to transpose it into a completely different musical language. The result is a rejuvenated and refreshing take on ‘Bad Guy’ that has a vivid coat of Caribbean-styled paint applied to just about every element of the source material. Where the original was dark, somber yet playful, Zeeteah’s keeps just the playfulness for her rendition. The slow, creeping tempo compliments the lyrics and performance from Zeeteah in a way that could make you think that this might actually be the original. This almost sinister embrace of the villainous title is enhanced by the harmony that dips in and out of jazzy minor chords that keep the listener in a subtle state of unsettlement, and curiosity.  

As is to be expected from Zeeteah and her artistic proclivities, bright and colourful instrumentation commands the tone of this arrangement. Being the first component heard; a classic reggae drum roll makes the genre-shift immediately apparent. This Caribbean staple is then joined by its good friends; short offbeat guitar stabs and deep, bouncy basslines. In this introduction, we also hear a brilliant alteration from Billie and Finneas’ original arrangement. The quirky, recognisable synth melody heard after Billie’s isolated ‘Duh!’ is instead taken up by a muted trumpet, heard before the vocals even enter. This is a clever embrace of the fact that Zeeteah’s choice of cover is of course a colossal hit, so there’s no sense in shying away from its most recognisable moments. That melody is also expanded on later for a phenomenal trumpet solo towards the end of the cover that acts as a sort of replacement for the sudden shift in pace, heard at the end of the original. 

Considered a part of Billie Eilish’s brand as both a performer and a person, her vocals are often intentionally sleepy and low-energy, something that Zeeteah decided not to adopt for her interpretation. The vocal performance here is mischievous and rebellious to the core as opposed to Billie’s more disinterested and indifferent approach. Zeeteah also uses next to no effects on her voice compared to the first version, which is just as well because it would be a shame to distract from the raw talent and personality held in Zeeteah’s performance on ‘Bad Guy’. 

This task of reinventing one of the biggest hits from the last 10 years was a tall order, however, unsurprisingly, Zeeteah Massiah’s ‘Bad Guy’ is nothing but a triumph. 

05
Apr

Barrington Levy performing with 16 global acts. JAM Festival 10 April 2021.

One of the great success stories of the 80’s, arrived on the dancehall scene and swiftly remodelled it in his own image. Although numerous DJ’s and vocalist would rise and fall during this decade, Levy was one of the few with staying power, and he continued releasing massive hits well into the 90’s. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, as a youngster, Barrington Levy formed the Mighty Multitude with his cousin Everton Dacres. They started off playing the sound systems and cut their first single, “My Black Girl,” in 1977. All of 14, Levy broke out his own the next year and recorded his debut solo single, A Long Time Since We Don’t Have No Love.” It didn’t have much of an impact, however, the teen’s appearances in the dancehalls were eagerly awaited events. It was at one of these that Levy met former singer turned producer Junjo Lawes and New York-based producer Hyman “Jah Life” Wright. The pair took the youth into King Tubby’s studio, accompanied by the Roots Radics, and recorded a clutch of cuts. The first fruits of this union were “Ah Yah We Deh,” quickly followed by “Looking My Love”, and “ Wedding Ring Aside.” Success was immediate, but it was the mighty “Collie Weed” that really cemented the teen’s hold of dancehall.“Shine Eye Girl”, was a smash follow up, and the young Levy was now in great demand. A stream of singles followed “Jumpy Girl”, a lovely version of Horace Andy’s “Skylarking”, “Reggae Music”, Levy joined forces with producer Alvin Ranglin for another sting of hits—“Never Tear My Love Apart,” “Jah”, “You Made Me So Happy,” and “When You’re Young and in Love.”Levy’s rich vocals were made for duets, both with other vocalists and DJ’s, and it wasn’t long before the young star was also recording collaborative singles. Toyan was a great foil on “Call You on the Phone”, he paired with Jah Thomas on “Moonlight Lover” and “Sister Debby”, and joined forces with Trinity for “Lose Respect” and a follow-up, “I Need a Girl” in 1980. That same year, Levy made a sensational appearance at Reggae Sunsplash, then returned in 1981. During these early years, the singer seemingly spent all of his time between the recording studios and the dancehalls. Amidst the deluge of singles, four albums arrived as well between 1979 and 1980. First up was Bounty Hunter, which boasted three smash singles—“Reggae Music”, “Shine Eye Girl”, and “Looking My Love” –and a clutch of other tracks that were just about as good. In Britain, the Burning Sounds label released Shine Eye Gal, also a hits heavy package which included the title track-track, “Collie Weed”, and “Ah Yah We Deh.” It was swiftly followed by the mighty Englishman, an absolutely fabulous record which was overseen by the unbeatable studio grouping of Junjo Lawes and two of King Tubby’s protégés—Scientist and Prince Jammy. A veteran of the clubs, he brought the spontaneity of the DJ to his records while returning vocals back to the sound system scene which had been purely the realm of the Djs.Utilizing old roots rhythms revitalized by the Radics, and giving the songs a hard, but danceable edge, Lawes and Levy together helped establish a whole new dancehall sound.1980’s Robin Hood merely affirmed that everyone in Jamaica already knew: That Levy was now the biggest star on the island, with a talent that was unbeatable. Or more accurately, he was king of the singers, because ruling beside him was DJ Yellowman, another Lawes’ discovery, that was brought to him by Barrington Levy. Robin Hood was as big as its predecessor and was beginning to have an impact in Britain as well, where both it and Englishman had been released by the Greensleeves label. Not surprisingly, both albums heavy rhythms would provide the building blocks for the Scientist V Prince Jammy dub clash album. Unfortunately, Levy’s very popularity was now beginning to have some serious drawbacks. Even before stardom arrived, the singer had noticed with delight fans taping his sets at the dancehalls, and these tapes were coming back to haunt him. Suddenly, the shelves were buckling under the weight of the bootlegged albums, featuring not just older pirated live material, but also unreleased outtakes and recycled older singles. In response, Levy didn’t release a new album for two years, but in the meantime, new singles more than made up for it. From 1980 came such hits as the haunting Lawes-produced “Mary Long Tongue” producer Linval Thompson’s “Too Poor,” and a string if hits cut with Karl Pitterson, including “ I Have a Problem” and “Even Tide Fire a Disaster”. And as the decade progressed, the flood hits continued. “I’m Not in Love”, “You Have It”, “Tomorrow Is Another Day”, “Robberman”, “BlackRose” “My Women”, and “Money Move” were just a small number of the hits released between 1981 and 1983, with the latter song the biggest smash of the batch. Levy even tried his hand at self-production, recording such excellent songs as “In the Dark” and “Love of Jah.” Amongst there were fabulous singles recorded for Joe Gibbs, “My Women” included.1983 finally saw the release of Levy album “Money Move”. The latter was excellently overseen by George Phang and boasted a stupendous group of rhythms that Sly & Robbie had specifically made for the producer. In the U.K, the burning sounds label also released Hunter Man, a greatest-hits collection. But the hits were still coming on strong; in 1984 none were bigger than Levy and Jah Screw produced “Under Mi Sensi.” The pair would also record a new album that year, Here I Come, whose title track would the top 50 in the U.K The album itself took Britain by storm and ensured that Levy walked away with the Best Vocalist Award at Britain’s Reggae Awards. It was also these songs that secured his spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the first reggae artist to hold both 1st and 2nd place slots in the charts. The same year, the singer also joined forces with another young singer who was tearing up the dance floors, Frankie Paul, for the intriguing sound clash set Barrington Levy meets Frankie Paul. 1985 brought Prison Oval Rock (the Volcano Jamaican label release, and not to be confused with the RAS label’s U.S. compilation of the same title), which found the singer joining forces with Lawes again, for another roots-fired set equal to its predecessors. It had been six years since Levy burst onto the scene with all the force of a nuclear weapon. Now in his early twenties, the singer’s output significantly began to slow. He did return to Reggae Sunsplash in 1987 and would remain a top attraction at the festival until 1985. He also released “Love the Life you Live” in 1988, a rather patchy effort compared to previous releases. It was to be his last new album until 1991. But Levy wasn’t a spent force yet. Before the ’80s were over, he scored two more hits with “My Time” and “Too Experience”, both under the aegis of producer Jah Screw, and both covers of songs written by Bob Andy (ex-Paragons and also of Bob & Marcia fame).Signing with MCA in the U.S., Levy attempted to cross over into the North American market with 1983’s Barrington. Produced by Lee Jaffe, the album featured a re-recorded “Under Mi Sensi”, and boasted strong songs as “Murderer” and “Vice Versa Love” and “Be Strong”, a major hit in the Caribbean and South America. However, the relationship with MCA was not a happy one and Levy quickly departed. Meanwhile, back in Britain, the singer was chalking up another hit with “Work”. In 1994, Levy was joined by Beenie man on the singles “Two Sounds” and “Murderer”. Both soon reappeared as fiery jungles remixes. Barrington will also be performing in the JAM Festival, which is a collaboration between Jeeni, AmplifyX and MultiView Media and will be held at 12 noon Los Angeles time, 8 pm London time on Saturday, April 10th 2021. To find out more about the JAM Festival check out our events on Facebook. https://fb.me/e/1etPauFMV

04
Jun

Inside Story with Blue Vein

Blue Vein is the stage name of Spanish Singer and Songwriter Alex Gonzalez. He is based in Zaragoza, Spain and performed his new track ‘Catharsis’ in the JAM Festival collaboration in April. Alex is sat in his living room, his signature long dark curls framing a cheeky smile which delightedly remains throughout the interview with team Jeeni member Kate.  Kate asks what the story behind his latest release is. “Basically, I really really liked a girl,” he says smiling, “I wanted to express and portray in a song all these feeling that I was going through, the song talks about that, it’s something that lots of people can relate to, and also the phrase in the chorus ‘this is my catharsis’ [refers to] the fact that no matter how sad I am or what difficult times I’m in, my music and writing songs is always there for me and it’s so liberating and a key element for me to have [in my life] in order to be happy.” The video that accompanied the track was a brilliant and eclectic mix of colour and movement. When asked about the creative process behind making the video, his response was, “It was a bit chaotic because at first I was very lost, I had in mind the vibes that I wanted for the clothes, but that was it so normally when you do a video you have in mind the order that you want the shots to be in and you create a storyboard, but, I didn’t,” again he laughs, “and so yes it was very chaotic. What I did was buy the clothes, and a huge reel of green fabric to create the comic effect via a green screen, and then I shot everything in a bit of a rush, using different camera angles, and then in post editing I chose the shots that I thought fit the best.”  Despite the chaotic nature of the video shooting, we all agreed it was a huge success and loved the feel that the video gave alongside the track.  Alex is also a member of two other bands, The Sun Above Us and Shut, despite this, he continues to release music as a solo artist as well. Kate asks why he decided to make this decision.  “I love being in bands, I think that playing with and creating with other people that you love and that inspire you can be the most enriching thing, but our friend Covid”he grimaces, “came and there were no rehearsals, no concerts, so we barely play now.” The disappointment is evident on his face and it’s so sad to see. He continues, “so the Covid situation made me write more songs on my own, and actually it made me worry less, “his smile returns, “as when you’re in a band you [tend] to stick with a certain genre and even a certain language as I also write in Spanish [so this allowed me more freedom].”  Alex is from the North East of Spain, a country which has so many distinct musical and cultural influences, Kate asks how these influences have shaped him as an artist.  “To be honest I don’t know! I’ve always listened to Spanish music, my parents always played me rock from the 70s, 80s and 90s and I guess I’ve been influenced by choice of melodies and sounds and in that way that’s how I think it has influenced me.”  One thing that we notice throughout the interview is that despite Alex’s heritage, he has a very clear English Accent, Kate asks how he came to develop this.  Alex throws his fantastic head of hair back and laughs, “Thank you! I don’t know, I’ve always really liked the British accent, so I just practiced and tried to imitate it, but does it sound real, do I sound fake?” Kate smiles and says that she thinks he sounds like David Bowie which I am in complete agreement with! They both laugh and smile at this and Alex blushes a little at the compliment.  “Did you always know you wanted to make music?” Kate asks.  “Yes! Since I started playing it was like a dream. With Blue Vein I can mix it with my other passion, which is film making, I suck a bit at that but it’s fun.”  When asked if he had the opportunity to open a show for any musician, alive or dead, who would it be, he answers, “Well, I don’t think it would fit [very well] because of the genre, but Architects…a British metalcore band in Brighton, they’re basically my favourite band, and even if it was just so I could see them live, I would die to open for them!” They both laugh at the fact that despite Kate attending University in Brighton, she is bashful that she hasn’t heard of them before but promises Alex, she’ll give them a listen.  For new artists that are just starting out and who in the future could take part in events such as Jeeni’s JAM Festival, Kate asks what advice Alex would give to them.  “It might sound a bit cliché, but you really have to believe in what you do, and understand why you do what you do, because having a defined purpose is going to [allow you to] be driven by it, and not just be motivated to get to an end point, but if you are driven by it, you’re not going to let anything stop you. That and a lot of love and effort. I’d love to give you advice for social media but [I’m not big enough for that yet].” He laughs.  Finally, Kate asks what we can expect from Blue Vein in the near future.  “Literally anything! When I write songs, I don’t think in any genre, I have deathcore songs, I have soft Spanish ballads, I don’t want any limits on my creations…The next song is going to be an acoustic version of ‘Catharsis’, then a rock ballad in Spanish, and I want to try release soe of my Spanish songs in English as an alternative as well.”  To find out more about Blue Vein, listen to his music and invest, please visit https://jeeni.com/showcase/bluevein/

03
Sep

COUNTDOWN IS ON 6 DAYS LEFT TO INVEST

It seems like a long time ago that Jeeni announced that they had reached their funding target in 6 days and were aiming to overfund. Well they did and now they have 6 days remaining and if you want to see our pitch click HERE. Jeeni, the social music platform that brings artists closer to their fans and shares revenue ethically, has successfully raised over £340K on Crowdcube across three rounds. With 350million streamed music subscribers and market growth up by 39% this year, Jeeni is likely to ride the wave and be a huge success, not only with unsigned musicians and performers but with their superfans. “We set a target to raise £100,000 for 2.4% with a pre-market valuation of £4M,” says Jeeni founder Shena Mitchell.  “And while we have the support of several major investors, the beauty of Crowdcube is that artists themselves can actually own a stake in the company for as little as £10.” Shena continues, “Jeeni’s mission is to support unsigned music and performers, by helping them build a fanbase.  We aim to fast-track careers in the music business, and make sure they take the lion’s share of the revenue that’s raised. Jeeni is needed more than ever in this Covid-19 New Normal, and we have proved that the demand is high. Currently we can only support 100,000 videos, so we must now move up a gear as we head for global roll-out.  This Round Three investment will be used to scale up again and launch our next-generation platform. It will also be used to develop our iOS and Android apps. With the financial backing secured, we’ll be creating new jobs in the area, which is great for the local economy.  When you consider the wealth of music talent in Portsmouth – hosting over 2,000 music events a year with Victorious, The Guildhall, Band Stand, Wedgewood Rooms, and all the Portsmouth Festivities and pubs – we’re alive to the opportunities of our local music culture, creativity and talent. But with live venues locked down for now, the online opportunity of Jeeni is greatly increased. It’s so cool to think someone reading this might choose to invest in Jeeni now with just £10, and then use Jeeni to build their own fanbase for fame and success!  We’re going to try hard to make sure that happens.” JEENI is currently inviting investment on Crowdcube.  To find out how to get involved please join our mailing list for updates or check out our fundraising pitch. If you want to see our pitch click HERE.