Megan Joy and Matt Giraud were two of the stars of American Idol Season 8, one of the most talented and dynamic casts in the show’s history. With their jazzy, soulful voices and charming personalities, they were easily among my favourite contestants in the competition. Now, as independent singer-songwriters, both Megan and Matt have released their own original music, establishing who they are as undeniably unique artists.
Megan Joy is a self-professed lover of love, dreams, and songs. Her second independent release, Free to Fly, is a collection of her songs on love and dreams. Like Megan’s self-titled debut EP (which was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign), this album is full of infectious tunes and sweet melodies that with twinkle and sparkle with throwback sounds, fun grooves, and her unique jazzy pop sound.
50s and 60s nostalgia is ever present on the uptempo songs, which include “Boy Next Door”, a tale of young first love sung over a vivacious boppy beat (reminiscent of Amy Winehouse’s version of “Valerie”), the rockabilly-infused “Secret”, about the secrecy of keeping love concealed, “Spell it Out”, which spells out the terms of a non-relationship with a unique blend of 60s retro and modern ska and hip-hop, and “I’m Not Tryin’ To Hear That”, a sassy “ain’t got time for that” kind of number which boldly tells a player to back up and back off. It’s clear as a bell that these retro, wall-of-sound influenced tracks are the strongest parts of Free to Fly.
Megan’s love songs have a sentimental and magical quality to them, like the easy, breezy, and jazzy “Feel Love”, about being feeling the loneliest with company, the pretty yet sorrowful “Incomplete”, about finding yourself replaced with emptiness and getting the strength to love yourself again, and the celestial and hypnotic “Sweet Love”, about waiting for the missing piece to fill in your heart (the nature and seasonal imagery within the lyrics evokes a sense of soothing peace and wonderment).
Megan experiments with dance-pop on “Some Girls”, about being strong-willed enough not to go for anything or anyone, with a pop-rock edge on topsy-turvy “Lovesick” (“Am I falling apart or falling in love?”), and with some contemporary soft-rock on the wishful “Shooting Stars”. While Megan shows that her voice can fit easily into today’s hit radio landscape, it is in her throwback tunes and love songs that she shines best.
Without a doubt, the album’s two standout songs are “Double Life” and the title track, “Free to Fly”. In “Double Life”, Megan sings about her split screen life, where she fights to find balance between her dual roles of mother (“toy trains”) and musician (“quick fame”). As she rushes from the fast line to her home, it’s her love for her son, Ryder that keeps her moving (“It’s me you need, it’s you I love”). “Free to Fly“, is an revised and evolved version of “Rainclouds” from her first EP. Rewritten as the theme song for BARFFUS project (founded by her mother), “Free to Fly” is redefined as an uplifting anthem of joy and hope, turning a raincloud into a rainbow that keeps shining on to provide love, beauty, peace, inspiration, and the freedom to spread your wings.
The running theme that flows throughout the “Free To Fly” is that of making your own reality – in love, in life, and in your dreams. As Megan states in her biography: “My first two albums are the end products of when I was learning how to turn my love for music into a career. They close a chapter of my life where I found myself and learned how to follow dreams.” This joyful songbird believes that dreams can be achieved with a little bit of love and hope, and after listening to “Free to Fly”, you’ll start to believe it too!
1. Boy Next Door
3. Some Girls
4. Feel Love
6. Double Life
7. Spell It Out
8. I’m Not Tryin’ to Hear That
10. Shooting Stars
11. Free to Fly
12. Sweet Love
Matt Giraud is a cool cat with his distinctively scatty and soulful jazz stylings, which are full of character – even his passionate piano playing has a life of its own. After a memorable run on Season 8 of American Idol followed by years of gigging around North America and the world, Matt finally has new music available for purchase. His first EP, recorded at River City Studios in Grand Rapids, Michigan, features live recordings of five of his original songs, along with a special treat for his faithful fans.
Live at River City starts with the smooth grooves of “4AM”, about longing to hold someone close in the early hours of the morning when the rest of the world is asleep. A song which grows and rises into a soaring finish, “Brand New Day” signals the point of moving on from someone who does not return your love and having the strength to find your way again, with hopes that they will too. “See You In A Little While” follows, a wistful ballad which echoes the promise that while “love comes and goes… it always comes back around”. The tempo is turned up a notch with “Baby Girl”, a flirty and funky R&B (with a touch of reggae) jam about a special lady who has rocked his world and has him all wrapped up in her charms, and in return, he proclaims he will love her the right way. With its classic jazz sound, “Stay A While” is the highlight of the five original songs, presenting an invitation for an epic love affair: “This could be the thrill of a lifetime / let’s get lost in a dream / Won’t you stay a while / and find out with me?” As a added bonus, the EP also includes the long-desired recorded version of Matt’s signature song from Idol, “Georgia On My Mind”. His cover (which is five minutes of musical glory) of the Ray Charles standard both showcases his artistic personality while staying true and respectful to the old sweet song – surely a testament to both his character and his craft.
All in all, this six-song EP is a sampling of what’s to come from Matt in 2014, and I can definitely say that this year in music just got a lot more promising!
1. 4 AM
2. Brand New Day
3. See You In A Little While
4. Baby Girl
5. Georgia On My Mind
6. Stay A While