Two Hearts Album Review

81hhsbocdhl-_sy355_There has been tremendous anticipation among Jackie fans like myself for the release of Jackie Evancho’s latest album titled “Two Hearts.”  Just recently I received my copy of “Two Hearts” consisting of two CDs.  The Title of the album is based on Jackie’s love of both classical and pop music, which is somewhat characteristic of the Classical Crossover genre that she is know for.  The first copy of the album that I received is a special edition version exclusive to Walmart.  Keep in mind that the Walmart version of the CD has three extra songs on it vs. the standard album sold by other retailers.  Having the song “Fix You” on it is a huge bonus for me, because I adore Jackie’s version of this song.  For a few extra dollars, the Walmart version of the CD is definitely worth it over the standard version.  Thus, I will focus this review on the Walmart version.

Whenever I listen to a new album, I usually need to listen several times to each song in order to fully absorb all of the subtleties that are in the music and to fully appreciate the experience.  I must say that the experience of listening to Jackie on this album is amazing!  Each time I listen to it, I discover more nuances that pull me into the music in a profound way.   My initial observation of this new album is that Jackie has grown into an extremely diverse singer.  She explores many different avenues of music on this album – classical, pop, hip hop, spiritual / inspiration, and patriotic to name a few.  Needless to say, this album is quite eclectic with all of the various music styles that it contains.  One would think that all of this musical diversity may cause some blurriness on the thematic identify of this album, but somehow that is not the case.  The tracklist works quite well – providing the listener with a unique musical experience from track to track, which is quite refreshing and enjoyable.  It is incredible how Jackie’s voice transforms from one style to the next, demonstrating that she is truly a multidimensional singer with limitless talent.  Jackie’s voice has been taken to new heights and she shows us the different ways that she can adapt her voice to different musical styles.  She can sing with her smooth lyrical classical voice in one track and then switch to a more edgy pop-sounding voice on the next track.  Each of her vocal styles are matched perfectly to the context of the music, which sometimes isn’t the case with some singers who sing classical and then try to sing pop.  It is apparent that Jackie can handle multiple vocal styles with ease, while still staying true to herself without compromising on vocal quality.

The Walmart special edition of “Two Hearts” is loaded with good high-quality music – total of 18 tracks spread across two CDs.  There is a mix of cover songs and some originals.  The originals are songs written specifically for Jackie in addition to some songs written by Jackie in collaboration with other songwriters (shown on the tracklist later in this post).  These new pop songs explore a different side of Jackie’s voice, demonstrating her diversity as an artist.  The new pop songs are excellent and I am hoping they will get enough attention for radio airplay.  I think that many of the songs on this album will definitely appeal to pop music fans who also have eclectic musical tastes.

Here is my brief rundown of my impressions of each track on the Walmart special edition album, which contains three extra songs (*) not found on the standard album.

  • Caruso (Lucio Dalla) – Jackie sings a beautiful rendition of this song, which contains some very intricate and complex Italian lyrics.  This is more of a classical-sounding song in which the singer must transition back and forth from a somewhat recitative style to an aria style. The song could be classified as operatic pop.  It is a technically challenging song that Jackie sings beautifully!
  • Attessa (Petro Mascagni, Chara Feral) – This song is an adaptation from the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, (Pietro Mascagni) originally released by  Sarah Brightman back in 2008.  Jackie once again takes on the Italian lyrics of this piece with grace and finesse with some wonderful phrasing and roundness in her vocal tone.  The last high-note that Jackie hits is exquisitely jaw-dropping!
  • How Great Thou Art (Traditional, K. Hine Stuart) – Such a gorgeously inspiration piece of music sung by a gorgeously inspirational singer.  When Jackie sings this song, I find myself getting so caught up in the music that I suddenly feel tears welling up without warning – also known as “The Jackie Effect” coined by fans.  It is almost as if a little piece of Heaven reaches out and touches me when I hear Jackie sing this song.  Jackie reaches into the upper register in glorious acclamation on the last soaring note of the piece.
  • Mamma (Cesare Andrea Bixio, Bixio Cherubini) – It wouldn’t  be a mystery why Jackie would have chosen to sing this song.  The lyrics are a very poignant reminder of the admiration and love that Jackie has for her mother Lisa as well as her gratitude for all the sacrifice that she has given for Jackie.  As Jackie sings this song, you can almost feel the depth of the meaning that it has for her and Lisa.
  • May It Be (Enya, Roma Ryan, Nicky Ryan, Howard Shore) – This is a well-known New Age song made popular by Enya.  Jackie sings this song in a similar style as Enya without the Celtic mordents and turns that Enya incorporates.  Instead, Jackie utilizes more of a classical interpretation.  Each interpretation has its own merit.  I happen to like them both.
  • The Way We Were (Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch) – Of course almost everyone knows this song made famous by Barbra Streisand.  When I first found out that Jackie was singing “The Way We Were,” I wondered if she would be able to escape the comparison of having to live up to Streisand’s legendary connection to it.  What can I say, except that Jackie delivers a beautifully remarkable rendition with some subtle nuances that enhance that endearing feeling one gets when they hear this song.
  • Have You Ever Been In Love (Jimmie Linville) – This song has a dreamy feel to it with obvious lyrics about falling in love.  Jackie incorporates a soft pop voice that has a serene feeling to it, showing us a different side of her vocals.
  • Safe And Sound (T Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams) – Jackie’s cover of “Safe and Sound” was originally released in 2015 as a music video and is now part of the Two Hearts album.  I’ve always liked Jackie’s rendition of this song even more so than the original Taylor Swift version.  I am glad that it is included on this CD.  It is definitely a treat to hear Jackie sing this song in her own unique way.  The song builds to a driving beat that really soars with the vocals delivered by Jackie.   Be sure to check out the music video too because it is very well done.
  • Writing’s On The Wall (Sam Smith, James Napier) – This was another song that was released back in 2016 as a music video.  The song is a cover of Sam Smith’s rendition of the title track from the James Bond movie – Spectre.  Once again Jackie sings this cover in her own unique way that is a little bit lighter than the Sam Smith version.  Within the context of the James Bond movie, I still prefer Sam Smith’s version, because it has more of that dramatic feel to it, which is characteristic of Bond movie soundtracks.
  • A Thousand Years (David Hodges, Christina Perri) – This song consist of a duet between Jackie and Fernando Varela originally debuted on Fernando’s PBS special aired earlier this year (2017).  The recording is from the live performance of that special.  The original song is reinvented with Italian lyrics .  Both Jackie and Fernando compliment each other’s voice very well and they blend perfectly together.
  • * Coming Home (Shawn Carter, Jermaine Cole, Alexander Grant, Holly Hafermann) – This is another cover song that Jackie released as a music video back in 2016.  It has some subtle differences from the original Skylar Grey recording.  Although the song itself is not one of my top favorites, I think the song and video together are a very honorable tribute to soldiers wounded in battle, especially when they get to “come home” to be reunited with their families.
  • * Fix You (Guy Berryman, Jonathan Buckland, William Champion, Christopher Martin) – This is one of my top favorite pop songs on the album.  This song was originally done by Coldplay.  I can’t say enough about how much I like Jackie’s version of this song!  The music is gentle, yet powerful and Jackie sounds amazing singing it!  I will go so far as to say that Jackie’s cover outdoes the original Coldplay version of the song.  It’s that good!
  • * America The Beautiful (Katharine Lee Bates, Samuel Ward) – When you listen to Jackie sing “America The Beautiful,” it is no wonder that she is asked to perform at many prestigious national events such as the Presidential Inauguration, National Prayer Breakfast, National Christmas Tree Lighting, Capitol Fourth and National Memorial Day concerts.  Jackie does such a wonderful job singing our national pride songs, and “America The Beautiful” is no exception.  You can’t help but feel pride in America when you hear Jackie sing this song.
  • Sane (Jackie Evancho, Dina Fanai, Heather Holley) – This pop song and the next three that follow it are written by Jackie herself.  This song in particular is a bit edgier than the typical songs that Jackie fans have been accustomed to in the past.  Initially it was a bit of a surprise and it to took me a few playbacks to fully absorb and appreciate the different vocal style.   However, I am really impressed by this song and the fascinating way Jackie uses her voice in it – incorporating a syncopated light hiphop style that leaves a lasting impression that makes me want to listen to it again and again.  I can definitely see this song being a big hit and it is one of my top favorites on the album.
  • Pedestal (Jackie Evancho, Dina Fanai, Heather Holley, Richard Kirkel) – Jackie takes a page out of Taylor Swift’s song-writing style by creating a song that is somewhat of an autobiography of her feelings about how people perceive her.  The song resonates with some poignant lyrics that illustrate Jackie’s desire to not be put on a pedestal with lofty expectations, but rather for her to be seen as being genuinely true to her own self.
  • The Haunting (Jackie Evancho Dina Fanai, Heather Holley) – When I first heard this song it was from a video of a live recording of it.   I wasn’t very impressed by it.  However, the studio recording is another story.  I actually like it a lot!  This song has a mysterious and “hauntingly” dark style coupled with some really fascinating lyrics that flow with the title of the song.
  • Wonderland (Jackie Evancho Dina Fanai, Heather Holley) – This is another song on the pop side of the Two Hearts album.  The song favors Jackie’s lower vocal register in which she primarily uses her chest-voice, with some brief transitions to head-voice.
  • Apocalypse (Peter Zizzo, Jillette Johnson, Nick Carbone, John Secolo) – Last but not least, the song Apocalypse is a sad ballad about a broken relationship.  This song was specifically written for Jackie and was initially released as a music video back in 2016.  The heart-tugging lyrics really play on emotions when romance has turned into breakup  – analogizing it to an apocalyptic moment of brokenheartedness.  This is one of my favorite songs on the CD because it is so emotionally moving.  This could easily be another hit song!
* = Song is only on the special edition Walmart album.

 

The title of this album is certainly representative of the music that it contains.  I find myself loving both the classical and the pop sound that Jackie has incorporated into the CD – thus the title “Two Hearts” is certainly appropriate.  Not only does Jackie demonstrate her incredible singing talent, but also her song writing talent.  I am greatly impressed by the songs she has written (Sane, Pedestal, The Haunting, and Wonderland).  This album is quite an accomplishment for Jackie.  Her producers have created a high-quality album.  If you were to ask many of her fans to pick song favorites, you would probably get many different answers because Jackie’s music touches everyone in a unique and personal way depending on individual musical tastes.  It can be difficult to pick favorites because all of the songs are very good.  My favorites change day to day.  As of now, my main favorites consist of Fix You, How Great Thou Art, The Way We Were, Sane, The Haunting, Attessa, Safe and Sound, and Apocalypse.  They are all a mix of different styles and I am completely comfortable with that.

In conclusion,  if you like good music and want to experience a variety of musical styles, then by all means you should purchase a copy of Two Hearts.  I think it will have a wide appeal across many age groups and I hope that the world will discover the incredible music that this album has to offer.

You can purchase a copy of “Two Hearts” at the following links in addition to other retailers and online sites:

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Jackie Coming Home To Pittsburgh

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it has s been about 2 years since the last time Jackie put on a concert for her hometown crowd in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  I had the pleasure of attending her latest coming home concert on March 5th, 2017.  Although Jackie has performed in Pittsburgh many times, this was the first time she has had a concert at The Benedum Center since 2011 when she was only 11 years old.  I still have fond memories of that day on December 20th, 2011  because it was the first time I got to actually meet Jackie.  I wrote a blog entry of that experience – Another incredible day in Pittsburgh.  Almost 6 years later, Jackie has returned to The Benedum Center once again.  The Benedum is a beautiful concert hall.  I was thrilled when I heard of this concert announcement about 6 months ago because Pittsburgh concerts are very accessible for me since it is only about a 2 hour drive from where I live.  I was fortunate to be able to get two seats for my wife and I in the 4th row center Pit section of the theater.  The seats were excellent and were just slightly left of center stage.  It is one of my favorite places to sit for a Jackie concert.

Before the concert, several of us fans gathered together for a dinner at Braddock’s restaurant in the Renaissance Hotel just a few blocks down the road from the Benedum Center.  It is always great to sit down with other fans, enjoy a meal, and talk about our favorite moments of being a fan of Jackie.

After the fan gathering, we proceeded to walk to the Benedum center for the concert.  The weather was slightly chilly with temps in the 40s.  As we got closer to the theater, one could sense the excitement as other concertgoers gathered to file in at the entrance doors of the Benedum theater.  As my wife and I walked in after having our tickets scanned, we immediately got caught up in the atmosphere of the place.  The Benedum theater is beautifully ornate and is a gorgeous venue.  Memories started to come back to me from the last time I saw Jackie perform at the Benedum back in 2011.  I knew from this moment on, the evening would roll by quickly, so I did my best to absorb the experience as much as possible.  We were escorted to our seats by an usher and I realized that we were sitting just two seats over from the exact same place that we sat for the 2011 concert.

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Soon the house lights would dim and the concert began.  Jackie’s music director Peter Kiesewalter would cue up the strings and start the first song  – Pure Imagination.  Jackie seemed a bit nervous at the start of the song, but it didn’t take long at all for her to calm down and settle into the music.  For the rest of the evening Jackie would be in the zone and was thoroughly immersed in her performance.  It was such a stark contrast of the now 16 year-old Jackie vs. the 11 year-old Jackie that stood on that stage almost 6 years ago.  Jackie has grown up and she has blossomed into a beautiful young woman with a new aura of confidence about her.  She still has a charming demeanor, but on a more mature level.  I can’t say enough about how she takes ownership of the stage and looks completely at home when she is in front of an audience.  Her stage presence is magnificent.   Now, I’ve been to plenty of singing concerts given by teenagers who are Jackie’s age (usually high school programs), and I must say that Jackie is wayyyy beyond her years with how she commands the stage and how she performs.   Her concerts are nothing like high school music programs.  One would never guess that she is only 16 years old.  It is almost surreal to witness such incredible singing talent from someone her age.  Of course, this has been the case with Jackie throughout these past 6 years, but now even more so.  Her vocal tone is pure and pitch perfect coupled with an impeccable feel for the music.  Jackie was very charming and personable with her hometown audience.  I’ve been to several of her concerts, and I must say that Jackie engages with the crowd in a unique and personal way at each performance.  She makes everyone feel at home and provides an emotional escape when she sings.  It is truly a blessing to be a part of it.

There was a unique treat that Jackie gave to her hometown audience.  For the first time, she performed a song that nobody has heard before and will be on her upcoming Two Hearts CD.  The song she performed was the Barbra Streisand classic, “The Way We Were.” Jackie performed this song in a way that was true to Streisand’s rendition, but in a way in which Jackie put her own unique touches on it as well.  It was a very special moment with Jackie singing a very special song.  The concert setlist in general had a nice mix of music from her past CDs in addition to a few new songs that have been part of this latest concert tour.  Jackie is branching out a bit into other music styles, but she still maintains the familiar musical qualities that many of her fans have come to know and love.  One song that stood out for me was the cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You”  If you have ever listened to the original version sung by Coldplay, you wouldn’t believe how different Jackie’s interpretation of the song is.  She sings it with a tenderness that is so heartwarming and yet emotionally powerful.  It brought on one of those moments when I felt a tear forming because the music was so riveting to me.  The funny part is that I don’t even know why.  That’s the magic of Jackie’s voice.  Of course, there were many other songs on the program that were just as touching as the ones that I mentioned earlier.  Jackie sang the entire program flawlessly.  Here is a rundown of the concert setlist:

Pure Imagination
Made To Dream
Memories
Music Of The Night
Marriage of Figaro – Peter Kiesewalter instrumental Interlude
Fix You
What A Wonderful World
Impossible Dream
Nessun Dorma

INTERMISSION

Caruso
The Way We Were
Music from Carmen – Peter Kiesewalter instrumental Interlude

Song Medley:
O Mio Babbino Caro
Time To Say Goodbye
Think Of Me
Somewhere
When You Wish Upon a Star

The Prayer
Writings On The Wall
Safe and Sound
Lovers

Encore – The Lord’s Prayer

Although Jackie is the focal point of her concerts, there are other aspects of her concerts that are part of the experience as well.  The comradery of being around other fans who appreciate Jackie is very special.  I always enjoy having conversations with other fans and finding out how they discovered Jackie.  For some people this concert was their first to attend, and for others it was one of many concerts.  I heard stories of fans who became friends because of their connection to Jackie.  There was one heartwarming story of two mothers who both lost children to car accidents.  Both of their children were big fans of Jackie but they had never made it to one of her concerts before they passed.  Both mothers pledged that they would attend Jackie’s Pittsburgh concert as a way to memorialize their children and give them the chance to hear Jackie in spirit through them.  This is one of many touching stories that I have heard from people who have found comfort through Jackie’s music.  It is in these stories where I am reminded of just how special Jackie is to so many people and it is one of the many reasons why I am such a big fan.

 

Jackie’s latest CD titled “Two Hearts” will be available at the end of March.  You can pre-order now on Amazon and on iTunes.  Based on the few songs that I have heard from it so far, I think the CD is going to be great!

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