Nya Jade: My Denial

Do you go to bed at night and wake up in the morning? If so, Nya Jade recorded an album just for you.

Nya Jade

My Denial

Label: Katako
US Release Date: 2006-06-13
UK Release Date: Available as import

Even a cursory listen to Nya Jade's My Denial will tell you Nya Jade is a fabulous vocalist. Her entry into music industry, however, was not at all straightforward.

According to her website, Ms. Jade was a pre-med major at Stanford University, and a vocalist in the acclaimed ensemble Talisman, before she was struck by a speeding car. Her head hit the windshield, and her injuries required time away from her studies for physical therapy. As she reflected on her life, she started thinking about pursuing her musical dreams, using guitar lessons and songwriting to aid the healing process. She played a few coffeehouses and some open mic gigs in the Bay Area -- and liked it -- but ultimately sought a master's degree in Organizational Studies.

She tried to go corporate, but realized she wasn't built to sit behind a desk. Music finally took center stage for Nya Jade in 2004. While Robert Frost might advise us to take "the road less traveled", Nya Jade's sojourn reminds us of Sheryl Crow singing, "Everyday is a winding road." Considering the path Nya Jade followed to become an artist and CEO at her own record label, Katako Records, it's surprising her debut, My Denial, wasn't named after one of the album's best songs, Leave It All Behind.

Once I saw the album cover -- a three-quarter headshot of Jade and a portion of her guitar against a white background -- I had a feeling the Tracy Chapman and India.Arie associations might pop up. Then, when I heard the line "Love is stronger than pride when emotions collide" in Jade's song "Home", I was convinced the Sade comparisons were on the way, since "Love Is Stronger Than Pride" is still a popular Sade song.

Don't get me wrong. It must be an honor to be named alongside such outstanding artists. Plus, it's not like the comparisons are unwarranted. On the contrary, Nya Jade's tone bears a trace of Chapman, despite the dissimilar vibes of their output -- Chapman is distinctively folk; Nya Jade brings rock and pop to the party. And while it's a difficult task to write intensely private songs that nevertheless resonate for a general audience, both Nya Jade and India.Arie seem to accomplish this like it's second nature. As for Sade, I don't hear many similarities, although there are hints in "Home" and the inspirational "Live" (that's a short "i" as in "to live", not a long "i" as in "the wire was live").

There is, however, another comparison for Nya Jade's approach, style, and presentation. That's Dionne Farris. After appearing with Arrested Development on the group's gigantic hit "Tennessee", Farris released her solo album, 1994's Wild Seed -- Wild Flower. Even their album covers remind me a little of each other -- Nya Jade and guitar on white background, compared to Dionne Farris sitting in a rocking chair on a white background. Where Nya Jade enlists expert musicians to perform on her record -- notably legendary guitarist Rick Dufay of Aerosmith and bass player Dan Rothchild -- so too did Farris receive contributions from Lenny Kravitz, Peter Michael Escovedo, and Randy Jackson.

Musically, both ladies can rock your stereo, as Farris demonstrated with her guitar-centered single "I Know". Likewise, Nya Jade shows her rock sensibilities on most of her debut, particularly on songs like "Crawl", "Molasses", and "Sedated". Yet, also like Farris, Nya Jade can take a leaner, softer approach, as on "Next To You". This masterful song -- my favorite, by the way -- showcases Nya Jade on vocals, Kamron Hack on background vocals, and Dan West and Jason Moen on keyboards.

Lyrically, Nya Jade's songwriting is compatible with Dionne Farris' work. Farris' "Reality" explored how we know what we think we know, asking, "Why is green 'green'? What if it's really blue? And is what we think we think really truth?" Along these lines, Jade opens My Denial with the playful and poignant "One Pill". Observing that we are "a quick fix nation", Jade points out society's current addiction to instant relief. The chorus sums it up nicely:

And there's... one pill

Just to kill the pain

And there's... one pill

To make you feel safe

And there's... one pill

For a cheap thrill

And it's... all downhill.

It reminds me of comedian Chris Rock's joke from his Never Scared standup routine, where he described late night commercials hawking pills and remedies as attempts to "get you hooked on some legal sh*t":

I saw a commercial the other day that said, "Do you go to bed at night and wake up in the morning?" Oh sh*t, they got one! I got that! I'm sick! I need that pill!

Where Farris and Jade part company is the structure of their songs. Aside from "I Know", Farris' lyrics and arrangements were more flexible and open to experimentation. Jade, on the other hand, keeps her writing tight. It's beautiful to listen to because, although only 10 out of the 12 songs last longer than four minutes, none of the songs sound short or choppy. Densely packed, each tune is rich with lyrical and musical imagery. At a little more than 42 minutes, the album is both entertaining and satisfying.

The downsides to My Denial are minor when you stand them next to the album's treasures. For instance, two songs, "Live" and "Sedated", sound like they might have been written for a Disney Channel original movie, tapping into the flavor of current teen bubble gum pop. But that's not necessarily a negative; it actually adds variety.

My biggest problem is with the use of drum programming, but this only occurs on two tracks. On both, "My Denial" and "Fall Through", the music -- on the album and in these songs -- has such an organic quality that the artificial drums are out of place. For "My Denial", I wondered how the song would sound without any drums at all. Perhaps the rhythm of the guitar might have successfully driven the piece. For "Fall Through", live drums might have turned a great song into perfection, much like Dan Potruch's drums in "Crawl" and "One Pill".

My Denial grabs the rock baton from Farris' Wild Seed -- Wild Flower to craft a promising debut. The best part is, the more you listen to My Denial, the more you want to hear.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.