Vocalist/songwriter Jennifer Denali has been on a musical evolution for the past three years, with her true essence finally crystallizing in her new single and video “Sweet Sounds,” showcased here on American Songwriter today.
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“Sweet Sounds” is a breezy, pop confectionary dance treat, with a message of freeing yourself to the moment. Denali’s rich, full-bodied voice seduces the listener in with a ‘live for today’ chorus sung over ‘80s-styled rhythmic flourishes channeled through Jonas Brothers/DNCE grooves. Echoes of Kylie Minogue, The Cardigans and Madonna can be heard as she sings “Sweet sounds of you carried in the wind/I can’t be sure I’ll hear from you again.”
The song is a “celebratory combination of pain and innocence,” Denali told American Songwriter. “’Sweet Sounds’ is about innocence getting buried deep, and us as humans putting it on the back burner and not recognizing it until we have to.”
Sometimes the setting and location for a writing session can make all the difference in providing lyrical inspiration, as the New York-based singer found when she wrote the original version of the song several years ago.
“I wrote the song in Los Angeles while I was on a swing set with my producer. It came from a very unbiased place. I didn’t have an ‘I have this message to say’ goal in mind. It just happened. I think I was inspired by connecting to my inner child while I was on the swing set.”
Denali and her songwriting partner, Anthony Jolie, went for a bare bones approach in laying out the song’s general structure and melodic flow. “I usually write using only guitar and vocals.” With “Sweet Sounds”, “one melody informed the next. I use my voice memos to lay it down. It happened rather quickly in about an hour or so in the park.”
The song came quickly in that moment, but Denali heard a bigger production in her head and held onto the song for a few years. “I knew it was going to be special. I feel like I had to earn this record.”
The search for the right team led her to Grammy nominated production duo ClickNPress (Alessia Cara, J. Cole), who delivered exactly what she wanted. “They slayed it and did an amazing job. They picked it right out of my brain. It was effortless.”
Music has been an anchor for the New York native throughout her life, beginning with flute lessons and musical performances in school through showcase bands in New York City. After attracting the attention of several industry figures, her career was in flux as she battled depression.
“Music has been the driving force towards my healing. It’s paralleled to the way I’ve grown and lived my life. Singing and breathwork has helped me heal my physical body and music has helped heal my energetic body, guiding me towards my true self. We all fall off the path sometimes. I’m able to talk about it through my music. It’s a therapy session. It has been my rock.”
Denali is also aware of the need to free yourself and let the music move you. “This record does a good job of pulling you deep, but also allowing you to dance to it.”
The video presents a colorful visual image of Denali as a lone mermaid on a rock as day changes to night, the mood changing as verse moves into chorus and bridge. “Underneath the track itself there’s a whole underworld which is what the mermaid visualizer represents,” she revealed. “There are ocean waves, birds chirping, wind, a healing message. I’m really anxious to see how people connect to the song and what it does to their energy.”
Photo credit: Louis Browne