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The BluesTones

James Madison University

Who You Are - Single (2013)

4.0

Review By Michael Marcus

September 11, 2013

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The BluesTones may be a bit late to the party with this Jessie J megahit; the song is nearly two years old, and theirs is the fifth a cappella cover that I have heard to date. But to these ladies' credit, this Who You Are sounds completely unlike the other four, and quite fittingly gives the listener an acute sense of the group's musical identity.

This identity is mostly about what we don't hear. There is no distortion, no octavization, no blatant auto-tuning. The vp sounds like a person, not a drum kit. It's a pure, classic all-female sound that would not be out of place on a "best of" compilation from the mid '00s. Nicola Bertoni and Kristina Blehm's arrangement is likewise simple, with a nice dynamic arc and just enough variety to keep things interesting — the extra few beats that allow us to linger on "that's my own" are pure bliss. The recurring "nun nun nun" motif does get a bit strained after several listens, and I can't say I'm a fan of the passing 7ths that have been added, but these are minor quibbles.

Ms. Blehm also does lead vocals here, and she nails it. This song requires a wide range, both musically and emotionally, and she is by turns introspective and intense at both ends of the scale. Her runs do start to feel a little forced by the end, and her interpretation overall is a bit on the melodramatic side, but I choose to celebrate the fact that it is indeed an interpretation.

Although the BluesTones don't quite achieve the same overall transcendent quality of the Bare Naked Statues' version, this is still a very good track that they, and we, can be very proud of.


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