Jade Bird’s self-titled debut album, Jade Bird, functions as both a grand announcement of her advent to stardom and a declaration of who she is and who she hopes to be. Bird enters onto the world stage with a string of singles and EPs already notched under her belt, strong and unafraid. The album feels like a firm handshake and a knowing smile. Bird doesn’t seek validation from the audience or critics –– let alone amateur college writers like myself. Instead, the pervading sentiment of the album is that Bird knows she’s good –– really, really good –– and this album is simply her way of letting us know.
There’s no arrogance, however, in her music. Jade Bird’s album may trumpet her long-awaited arrival, but it’s a celebration of the self (both Jade, and the listener), not a display of hubris. The 12-track album contains an enticing mixture of vulnerability balanced with strength, heartbreak countered by confidence. Bird seems comfortable within her own skin –– her own voice –– singing “And that’s my motto / Don’t let ’em near enough to let me down” in the song “My Motto.” She’s open about her vulnerabilities, but sadness is seemingly unwelcome in the powerful display of self-love and acknowledgment that is the album Jade Bird.
Yet, while the album is named after herself, Jade Bird is honest about the struggle of knowing one’s self. “Ruins” open the album with energy and gentle acoustics, laying bare Bird’s beautiful vocals. This vulnerability is accentuated with the Bird’s echo of “I’m not sure who I am” –– an admission that strikes at a deeper question of what releasing an album can signify to an artist. Yes, it’s a mark of success, talent and hard work. But the release of Jade Bird skyrockets the artist to new heights. Suddenly, the woman named “Jade Bird” is more than who she was. This essential question of who Jade Bird is hangs heavy over the entirety of the album, hinting that this vital introduction is also the artist’s exploration of her own identity.
Soul-searching doesn’t last for long, though. Bird blasts through with anthem-level songs like “Uh Huh,” making one almost forget her previous uncertainty. The amount of pure power Bird wields throughout the song is enough to entice the listener to their knees while she sings of control, authority and dominance. “Good At It” and “Love Has All Been Done Before” are full of heartache, but again, Bird doesn’t welcome pity or pining into her music. It’s heartache done the way it should be –– full of passion and vivacity.
The album closes on a gentle note with “If I Die,” full of beauty, with the warmth of a piano in the background. By the end of the album, it feels as if Bird has come full circle. From opening with a poignant question of identity to final assertions of “I’m ok with who I am” in her final song, Bird has seemingly found herself, and conversely, the listener has finally found Jade Bird. “If I Die” is heart-wrenchingly lovely, as Bird croons that “If I die, don’t put me in stars / Put me in words, not hallelujahs / They come from the heart and they'll ring true.” Bird never asks for love, or admiration or acceptance. But here, in these final words, she earns it a thousand times over.
Here, at least, this writer can immortalize the songs and memory of Jade Bird as she requests –– in unworthy words that can only beg redemption by their bone-deep sincerity.