By Erin Bassler
Picture, if you will, stepping out for a night onto the streets of Boston. The year is 1947 and you’ve walked into a club where the drinks are classy, the folks are not, and the lights are dimmed except for a single spotlight in the center of the stage. A lone woman in a long sequined dress stands in the center, clutching the microphone stand, a pianist and a bassist behind her. You take a seat. The crowd noise lowers to a dull murmur and the music starts.
The woman sings, “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor.
Since the first writer tapped on the keys of his typewriter, the first artist picked up a brush, and the first musician hummed a tune, the creativity of the past has always found a way to inspire that of the present.
If the past can inspire the present, why can’t the reverse hold true as well?
Postmodern Jukebox, a musical project and website created by pianist and musical arranger Scott Bradlee, is composed of several ever-changing and accomplished musicians and singers that produce weekly music videos. Songs that we hear every day on the radio are given a jazzy new twist — literally.
Bradlee himself fell in love with jazz at a young age, which went on to inspire his own music. He thought creatively instead of rationally, and as a result, Postmodern Jukebox has fans all around the world and a classy vibe we just can’t get enough of.
By rotating his performers, as well as what type of jazz he chooses to incorporate into a contemporary song, Bradlee keeps his work fresh and the fans interested — an excellent blend of maintaining the theme while recognizing that variety is the spice of life.
The foot-tapping doo wop sounds of the 1950s meet the eclectic Miley Cyrus. The vintage lounge singers of the 1920s meet the sound-barrier breaking White Stripes. And the subtle bass strums of 1940s jazz meet the groundbreaking Meghan Trainor.
Jazz is reborn with its signature look and sound, but with new material to bring to the stage. With a YouTube channel with well over 1,700,000 subscribers and new videos uploaded every Thursday onto their personal website, Postmodern Jukebox is a thriving musical group with albums on iTunes and tours in both North America and Europe.
For fans of the old and fans of the new, Postmodern Jukebox provides the best of both worlds. With a new arrangement and stylized voice for the lyrics, even songs and artists that weren’t to your tastes before may now have you hooked.
And if that’s not enough, each music video contains the visual aesthetic of the time, from flapper girls to men in suits and snazzy bow ties.
Bradlee garners a great deal of attention and admiration for his innovative style, which raises questions as to why more artists haven’t ventured or been successful in bringing a little bit of the present back to the past. To apply the idea to modern technology as well as the infinite possibilities of the Web, it seems almost impossible no one has thought of it sooner.
There are a number of possible reasons, but the two most prominent would certainly be that, one, the idea is an obvious one and unfortunately, many overlook obvious ideas because they believe someone already pursued them long ago.
And, two, while jazz is a popular and beloved genre of music, it’s not heard so widely on the radio in 2016. Each generation brings with it new music to be highlighted, effectively replacing or at least outshining the originals.
It’s dinner theater, folks!