by Hero Magnus
Cherie Jones, known by her stage name JONES, has a new music video out for her song “Giving it Up.” It is as eclectic and striking as she is.
JONES is an expert in the acoustic R&B track. She released her debut album New Skin in 2016 and many acoustic EPs since then. This new single is one of her first full-production releases in a while, although there’s an acoustic version of “Giving it Up” on 2018’s London EP. On “Giving it Up (Acoustic)” she strips down the song, especially on the bridge, and the stripped-down quality matches the vulnerability in the lyrics.
But the 2020 version of the song ups the ante to excellent effect and creates more distance between Jones and the listener. It makes more sense, now, why the idea of ‘giving it up’ for a lover is so hard for Jones to do. The song is about being hard to get and finding the pleasure in finally feeling a little out-of-control: “he’s the one that could save me from always being cynical.” And this is echoed even more in the smooth synths, matte vocals, and her subtle, undramatic riffs.
Her 2016 New Skin involves some sadder and slower songs, ramping up the drama even with all of the electronic finishings, so I’m excited for that to come back in the next JONES project. I always feel like I want to use the word ‘neo’ when describing JONES’ work: she reminds me of both indie pop Maggie Rogers and uber-chill Jhené Aiko.
Her acoustic versions of songs are stripped down, but their melodies are big enough to carry a lot of depth in the eventual production. This shows off Jones’ singular focus. She knows that her acoustic tracks allow us to see a different side of her work, but she’s not going to lose sight of her main artistic ideas.
JONES’ own music doesn’t fit clearly into one particular genre, which makes sense when you look at her list of her favorite musicians. She loves Lykke Li, a Swedish indie-pop-electronica artist, and Little Dragon, an electronic festival band with a live show that is supposed to be outstanding. JONES also says she grew up on Bob Marley and Mariah Carey. She’s not just r&b, not just pop, and not just electronic, but she draws influences from all of these places. (I understand, though, why JONES has dropped her first name. She shares it with Cherie Currie, rock singer from the Runaways–quite a different kind of musician from the sultry-smooth JONES, even though the two share a name.)
The “Giving it Up” video is just as eclectic as Jones herself is. We’re on a beach, cutting from abstract aerial shots of the ocean to Jones on the shore, cool and collected. She doesn’t smile— except with her eyes— for the most of the video, and wears a series of delectable dresses including one white-ish dress that could almost double as a wedding gown: we’re right on the wire between independence and relinquishment.
The video cycles through many seasons and different kinds of weather: bright, calm springtimes, flashes of lightning, overcast beaches, and timelapses of the daybreak over mountains. At the very end of the video, after three minutes of stone-cold cool, there’s a short glimpse of Jones giggling, almost like a blooper. We’ve caught her laughing, just as she’s caught herself falling for someone.
The extensive and creative visuals remind me of one of our own Washington, DC standbys. Don Zientara, punk recording legend, has a radio show called Stagecraft where he discusses with DC podcaster Alex Vidales what it means to be a good live performer. They bring on a lot of artists who are important to the DC live music scene. As I’m learning from Jones, it seems like much of this is related to creating aesthetics that are consistent and interesting with the music and the brand, and translatable to a live audience.
JONES is from east London, and most of her work is based in the UK, as well as the artists she collaborates with most often. She’s very involved with the electronic duo HONNE, and has also done shows with Australian singer-songwriter Matt Corby. During the pandemic, she’s done several livestreams, including one with Crash Magazine. Since so much of live music is virtual for now, it isn’t as difficult to get across the pond for a good live internet show. (Small consolation prizes.)
A few of our local stars can offer a hint as to whether you’ll like JONES as much as I do. Elizabeth II, an Ashburn native, brings a similar visual consistency as JONES does– cool blue hair, cool blue vibe– and is just a little rockier. Hayley Fahey is a Maryland artist who draws from similar influences as JONES, like Bob Marley and Coldplay. JONES’ work is smoother and sultrier than Fahey, who has a slight country twang.
Jones worked on “Giving it Up” with some big names in music: Mike Spencer, who also works with straight-pop musician Zara Larsson, and Paul Dixon (otherwise known as Fyfe). Jones has always been excellent at collaboration and draws from a number of interesting influences, which is definitely how she’s developed this particularly unique blend of electronic indie-pop with a soulful, rhythmic touch. Jones has been incredibly prolific over the last few years and clearly mastered her own particular songwriting technique. It’s great to listen as she develops her own sounds and ideas in production, too.
The new version of “Giving it Up” also displays Jones’ growth as an artist. In her song “Tender” from 2018, Jones sings that “the girl that I’m gonna be in the white dress / one day will know what she wants.” It doesn’t feel like a coincidence to me that now Jones is in a silvery-white dress on the beach, knowing exactly what she wants. (Hint: it’s not a person, just a great music team, artistic growth, and a killer 2020 summer single). Check out “Giving it Up” on the Alchemical Records’ Ocean Cities Playlist: inspired by the vibe of the gorgeous Ocean City, Maryland, but including music from all over the world, and anything that cools the heatwave.
To learn more about JONES, please visit her website at thisisjones.com
Hero Magnus is 20 years old. She runs a live radio show at Yale University called the Moon, and for fun she likes to dance at house shows, study American plays, and write music about historical figures. You can find some of her songs on Spotify and the rest on heromagnus.bandcamp.com. Hero is thrilled to be a new music reporter at Alchemical Records.