Singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis is known for her strikingly honest and witty lyrics. Her music is empowering, cathartic, and comforting; Jenny Lewis is one of those rare artists that makes the listener feel less alone. Lewis came onto the music scene with her band Rilo Kiley, the upbeat indie rock band which consisted of Lewis and three other bandmates. The band did not stray away from personal subject matter; in what many consider to be their best album, The Execution of All Things (2002), Lewis addresses her parents’ divorce and her depression with subtlety and candor. My favorite song of the album, “A Better Daughter/Son,” was featured in always-amazing Orange is the New Black.
Lewis currently performs with her boyfriend, Johnathan Rice, in indie-pop duo Jenny & Johnny. She also works as a solo artist, and is about to drop an incredible album – The Voyager – on July 29th. This album serves as a reflection on a tumultuous five years for Lewis – namely, dealing with the break-up of her band and the death of her father. Critics are already hailing this as Lewis’s most personal work to date. “Making The Voyager got me through one of the most difficult periods of my life,” Lewis said. “After Rilo Kiley broke up and a few really intense personal things happened, I completely melted down. It nearly destroyed me. I had such severe insomnia that, at one point, I didn’t sleep for five straight nights. Many of the songs on The Voyager came out of the need to occupy my mind in the moments when I just couldn’t shut down” (quote via consequenceofsound.com).
Perhaps the greatest indication of The Voyager’s inevitable success is the music video for its infectiously smart and hilarious, “Just One of the Guys.” In the video, Jenny Lewis is accompanied by Kristen Stewart, Anne Hathaway, and Brie Larson. The girls wear mustaches, breakdance, and never take themselves too seriously. The video is entertaining, but the song’s message is an important step for feminism. In an excellent article on Pitchfork, Lindsay Zoladz offers Lewis as a desirable medium between traditional female submissive “weakness” and the almost emotionless alternative expected out of many women today. “I realize now that it wasn’t exactly ‘sadness,’ but a particular kind of strength—one that allows the contradictions, complexity, and emotional range of a lived experience—that I was responding to in Jenny Lewis,” says Zoladz, “…Maybe the answer is to glamorize neither strength nor weakness, sadness nor happiness, but search for the many alternatives in between” (read the full article here: pitchfork.com/feature/ordinary-machines/9440-pretty-when-you-cry/). Lewis’s perspective is both assertive and vulnerable, which is no small feat.
The Voyager is available for streaming at NPR.com and will be out officially on July 29th. In the meantime, the music video below will cause instant happiness:
– Jenny Henderson