Music

Someone like Adele: ZZ Ward

For listeners aching to hear more blues-inflected female pop à la Adele, look no further than this rising American singer-songwriter.

If there’s one thing Adele has reminded us in the last two years, it’s that pop listeners aren’t all mindless receptacles of EDM. We like good lyrics that we can relate to, songs with fully developed verses and choruses, and, oh yes, someone who can actually sing live, without pitch correction.

Unfortunately, it looks as if Ms. Adkins will be on hiatus for a considerable length of time, busy raising her baby boy amidst rumors that she's heading back to the studio. Her contemporaries are few and far between: Amy Winehouse left us too soon, while Duffy and Pixie Lott both hit the sophomore slump. For listeners aching to hear blues-inflected female pop, Florence Welch and Rebecca Ferguson are currently the closest matches.

You wouldn’t expect to see Hollywood Records, a subsidiary of Disney Music Group, on a list of record companies where Adele’s audience would find an interim substitute, but it is indeed there where fans should cast their attention, to singer-songwriter ZZ Ward.

Though she shares the same label as Selena Gomez and Bridgit Mendler, all similarities end there. Having grown up listening to blues and hip-hop, and sung in bands since she was 12, ZZ’s musical chops and experience shine through on songs like "Put the Gun Down", the single from her debut album Til the Casket Drops.


There’s no mistaking the influence of artists like Etta James as soon as ZZ opens her mouth. As she pleads to the vixen wrecking her happy home, her voice alternates effortlessly between seething contempt and a cry for help.

The vocal similarities to Adele are surely one of the reasons why ZZ has an album out without any charting trailer singles; the other reason is probably her stunning looks. When scrutinized in direct comparison, Ms. Ward’s vocals are less pop and more gritty than the pipes that power through "Rolling in the Deep"; this also perhaps explains the former's lack of hits so far.

Much like Ms. Adkins, ZZ sings with weight and pain that sound far more mature than her young age. She breaks no sweat switching from righteousness to heartbreak in her delivery, and she also has a vocal affectation of bending her vowel at the end of phrases, just like Adele. Most importantly, both share the ability to make you believe every word they sing.

The voice, the songs, the looks: ZZ Ward’s got the whole package. There really isn’t any reason why she shouldn’t be the next big thing in pop.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

'World War 3 Illustrated #51: The World We Are Fighting For'

World War 3 Illustrated #51 displays an eclectic range of artists united in their call to save democracy from rising fascism.

Music

Tiphanie Doucet's "You and I" Is an Exercise in Pastoral Poignancy (premiere)

French singer-songwriter Tiphanie Doucet gives a glimpse of her upcoming EP, Painted Blue, via the sublimely sentimental ode, "You and I".

Music

PM Picks Playlist 3: WEIRDO, Psychobuildings, Lili Pistorius

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of WEIRDO, Brooklyn chillwavers Psychobuildings, the clever alt-pop of Lili Pistorius, visceral post-punk from Sapphire Blues, Team Solo's ska-pop confection, and dubby beats from Ink Project.

By the Book

The Story of Life in 10 1/2 Species (excerpt)

If an alien visitor were to collect ten souvenir life forms to represent life on earth, which would they be? This excerpt of Marianne Taylor's The Story of Life in 10 and a Half Species explores in text and photos the tiny but powerful earthling, the virus.

Marianne Taylor
Film

Exploitation Shenanigans 'Test Tube Babies' and 'Guilty Parents' Contend with the Aftermath

As with so many of these movies about daughters who go astray, Test Tube Babies blames the uptight mothers who never told them about S-E-X. Meanwhile, Guilty Parents exploits poor impulse control and chorus girls showing their underwear.

Music

Deftones Pull a Late-Career Rabbit Out of a Hat with 'Ohms'

Twenty years removed from Deftones' debut album, the iconic alt-metal outfit gel more than ever and discover their poise on Ohms.

Music

Arcade Fire's Will Butler Personalizes History on 'Generations'

Arcade Fire's Will Butler creates bouncy, infectious rhythms and covers them with socially responsible, cerebral lyrics about American life past and present on Generations.

Music

Thelonious Monk's Recently Unearthed 'Palo Alto' Is a Stellar Posthumous Live Set

With a backstory as exhilarating as the music itself, a Thelonious Monk concert recorded at a California high school in 1968 is a rare treat for jazz fans.

Music

Jonnine's 'Blue Hills' Is an Intimate Collection of Half-Awake Pop Songs

What sets experimental pop's Jonnine apart on Blue Hills is her attention to detail, her poetic lyricism, and the indelibly personal touch her sound bears.

Music

Renegade Connection's Gary Asquith Indulges in Creative Tension

From Renegade Soundwave to Renegade Connection, electronic legend Gary Asquith talks about how he continues to produce infectiously innovative music.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

A Certain Ratio Return with a Message of Hope on 'ACR Loco'

Inspired by 2019's career-spanning box set, legendary Manchester post-punkers A Certain Ratio return with their first new album in 12 years, ACR Loco.

Books

Oscar Hijuelos' 'Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love' Dances On

Oscar Hijuelos' dizzyingly ambitious foot-tapping family epic, Mambo Kings Play the Songs of Love, opened the door for Latinx writers to tell their stories in all their richness.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 2: Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES, SOUNDQ

PopMatters Picks Playlist features the electropop of Bamboo Smoke, LIA ICES' stunning dream folk, Polish producer SOUNDQ, the indie pop of Pylon Heights, a timely message from Exit Kid, and Natalie McCool's latest alt-pop banger.

Film

'Lost Girls and Love Hotels' and Finding Comfort in Sadness

William Olsson's Lost Girls and Love Hotels finds optimism in its message that life tears us apart and puts us back together again differently.

Music

Bright Eyes' 'Down in the Weeds' Is a Return to Form and a Statement of Hope

Bright Eyes may not technically be emo, but they are transcendently expressive, beatifically melancholic. Down in the Weeds is just the statement of grounding that we need as a respite from the churning chaos around us.

Film

Audrey Hepburn + Rome = Grace, Class, and Beauty

William Wyler's Roman Holiday crosses the postcard genre with a hardy trope: Old World royalty seeks escape from stuffy, ritual-bound, lives for a fling with the modern world, especially with Americans.

Music

Colombia's Simón Mejía Plugs Into the Natural World on 'Mirla'

Bomba Estéreo founder Simón Mejía electrifies nature for a different kind of jungle music on his debut solo album, Mirla.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.