Album Reviews

Caro Emerald – Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor

(Dramatico) UK release date: 18 October 2010

Caro Emerald - Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor 2010 has been a quiet renaissance for powerful female voices in styles and genres that have long deserved some reconstruction – Robyn brought back fizzy synthpop hedonism, Janelle Monáe released one of the most forward thinking soul records of the last decade, and Nicki Minaj has successfully transformed herself from a bratty, schoolyard-rap blip to a full-fledged star. These women have not only dominated ears with their distinctive personalities, but they’ve also turned their particular scene’s community on its head, vicariously demanding listeners on a universal scale to pay attention to them.

Meanwhile, Caro Emerald has already taken over an entire country under most of our noses. The Dutch jazz singer’s debut record Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor spent (and continues to spend) an unprecedented 27 weeks at Number 1 on the Netherlands chart – and it’s easy to see why. With her piping, playful voice, the lascivious, noir-touched bounce of the backing band and the off-kilter, star-crossed elements she brings into the mix, Deleted Scenes has found a one-in-a-million niche that can appeal to everyone from blog-obsessed audiophiles, department store soundtracks, and your mother’s five-CDs-a-year shopping habit.

Caro finds her charm in a fairly obvious way; she takes the heart-pounding, smoky-lounged, crowd-whistling side of jazz and makes that the backbone of her music. There’s nothing abstract here in the literal sense. The Other Woman, a snaky murder ballad about, yes, being ‘the other woman’ could easily be a James Bond theme – equipped with midnight-district guitar and velvety big-band swings. She sings in barely-disguised allusions to sex, and often gives off the same lookin’-for-trouble femme fatale charms that everyone from Theda Barato Missy Elliott specialised in, but instead of calling out”Hey, DJ! Turn it up!” she’s cooing “Mr Bandleader! This arrangement has to change!”.

But amazingly, there are DJs on Deleted Scenes; a shocking majority of the songs feature a significant amount of record scratching, which is sure to take plenty of listeners by surprise.Take opener That Man; for the first two minutes it’s a sultry, low-key, gentleman’s club staple, with Caro scatting along to the high-hat tapping jangle. But then out of nowhere, her voice starts cutting back and forth across a previously-hidden needle. At first the sheer audacity of such an odd choice of aesthetic might make it sound a little gimmicky, but on repeated listens the squiggles and cuts of the turntable work remarkably well with the stuffed-up mega-jazz textures of the rest of the album. It’s a natural fit and evolution for a genre that’s been roadblocked for quite some time.

Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room may not have the same magnitude as something like Monáe’s The ArchAndroid does, but they reach the same end. Both offer an indomitable, unique, and easily liked female presence that, by the end of the record, you can’t help but feel swept up in. Caro Emerald embraces the timeless unpretentious pleasure-centre side of vocal jazz while incorporating enough of her own tricks to make it all sound new. That’s a moreish recipe no matter which genre you’re talking about.

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More on Caro Emerald
Caro Emerald – The Shocking Miss Emerald
Caro Emerald @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Caro Emerald – Deleted Scenes From The Cutting Room Floor