Saturday, February 7, 2015

Awakening | Jackie Evancho

When classical crossover singer Jackie Evancho first made her appearance on America's Got Talent back in 2010, she completely astonished everyone watching. My jaw literally dropped - how can a ten year old girl sound like that? Now, Evancho is fourteen and has released quite a few albums over the years, and her most recent, Awakening, was released last September. 

Many of Evancho's fans as well as Game of Thrones fans are well-aware of her lead single "The Rains of Castamere," for it has gotten quite a bit of praise for its epic beauty. This is the masterpiece from Awakening - not only does Evancho sound fantastic hitting lower, darker notes, but one can really feel the melancholy as she chants "Castamere... Castamere..." and even some defiance as she sings "'And who are you?' the proud lord said, 'That I must bow so low?'" But the general instrumentation is quite pretty as well; it's a superb arrangement altogether that's bound to give every listener chills.
There are plenty of other superb tracks to note. "Your Love" is certainly a standout with Evancho's soaring, crystal-clear high notes. It's absolutely gorgeous altogether. I never heard the original until I came across Evancho's rendition, and I must say, I prefer Evancho's signature style to the original. The French song "Je t'aime" appears right after "Your Love" on the tracklist, and it impressed me just as much. I have no idea what she's saying, but it sounds spectacular. It's soft, haunting, and full of emotion; it's what Evancho does best nowadays. The strings are full of nostalgia for some reason that I can't quite put my finger on... It's cinematic enough to be a film score on its own, put perfect with Evancho's voice.

"Ave Maria" is also featured on the tracklist, and while she's done an "Ave Maria" or two before, this one is from Vladimir Vavilov. Out of all the Ave Marias in the world, we still don't have a studio recording of her singing Schubert's infamous version, but even if that's the one you were hoping for (as I was), have no fear: This "Ave Maria" is also very pretty.

The only issue I have with Awakening (as well as Evancho's other albums) has absolutely nothing to do with her performance, but with some of the arrangements (which, of course, I cannot really critique unless I've heard the originals). Personally, I was quite excited to hear that a cover of Within Temptation's beautiful ballad "Memories" would be featured on Awakening since Within Temptation is one of my favorite bands of all time (my favorite of all favorites, to be honest), and while Evancho sings it beautifully (as I knew she would), I'm just not wowed by the overall arrangement. It doesn't do anything Within Temptation didn't and it doesn't do anything differently aside from removing electric instruments. The same goes for her cover of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Think of Me" - but as I said, her performance is stellar. The end of this song is NOT easy to sing, and she nails it.

Evancho also covers U2's hit "With or Without You," which is one of my least favorites... For probably the millionth time, I stress that I have no problem whatsoever with Evancho's performance. In this case, I just don't understand why this particular U2 song is so special to people. I never have, and I probably never will. It all comes down to taste for this one.

Altogether, Awakening is a solid album. Evancho's voice is, as always, flawless; she sounds great on every track. My only complaint is that I wished for more unique arrangements, but there are certainly some tracks that really shine even beyond Evancho's voice. I'm satisfied with the outcome.

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