Why you need it: a friendly hand to hold through struggles with developing confidence, with lyrics that take the journey with you
Style: piano-driven singer-songwriter pop, with one surprise rock track
Wildflower is the debut EP of New Jersey pop singer-songwriter Jackie June, who co-wrote all the songs with singer-songwriter Jes Hudak (for a taste of Hudak’s own releases, check out “Different Worlds“).
I’m thrilled to see this EP released, having heard the songs live on the night of the ice storm at a roadhouse in rural New Jersey. Two of the songs, “All the Colors” and “Chasing Nightmares,” have been available as singles for a while — though “All the Colors” now has been remixed for a more pop sound.
The EP is a journey through struggles to empowerment. Sweet piano melodies, with a feel that sometimes verges on classical pop, frame the issues as timeless, while stormy pure vocals raise the banner for personal growth.
Against All Odds opens the EP with the feel of opening a music box to have a tornado emerge. It introduces the theme of struggles to overcome by starting with the triumphs of an earlier generation — it’s based on her parents’ story.
Reckless makes its case for the appeal of short-term gratification. The irony of the choral effect on “foolish thoughts, take me higher” is lovely — it’s exactly where a conventional power ballad would haul in the gospel choir for impact, only it’s to underline how bad ideas dress themselves up as inspiring.
Chasing Nightmares has my favorite lyrics of the EP, as “my day dreams haunt me” aptly sums up the power of self-destructive thinking and the resolution to “kiss them goodnight” puts a satisfying twist on the question of where nightmares go. (If an up-and-coming DJ wants to do a full dance remix… it’d work.)
All the Colors is the empowerment ballad that kicked off the project. The song was inspired by the Find Your Colors social media project, which shared stories of people conquering depression and anxiety. What’s striking about the song, even after many listens, is the willingness to talk about dire feelings — in this sweet, clear voice, it drives home how women construct a veneer of being sweet and lovely on top of pain and struggle.
Wildflower is the culmination of struggle: “she’s been told that she’s crazy, they don’t know she’s amazing.” It takes a sharp right turn into rock that brings to life the energy of empowerment. Since I’d first heard it in an acoustic version, this wasn’t what I expected — and never lead with telling an artist that. Lead with “I love it” (I do), then say why. Thematically, Wildflower is the kind of EP where it’s very satisfying — almost an actual need — to have something to dance around the room to at the end.
Jackie June is doing a tour of the mid-Atlantic and northeast about now, with a Connecticut stop in West Hartford on March 24.
Just for a little something extra, here’s her cover of “Always Remember Us This Way” from A Star Is Born, on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 2018.