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Review: Bewitched, a bewitching album

Laufey live at WFUV.

“Bewitched,” Chinese-Icelandic singer Laufey’s sophomore album is far from being groundbreaking or revolutionary. And that’s okay. Because to some, “Bewitched” instead, offers something much better: An escape.

The 24-year-old artist Laufey (pronounced “lay-vay”), has gone viral for her beautiful, deep voice, and mixing old classical music with modern lyrics. Known for her bossa nova hits “From The Start,” and “Valentine,” Laufey is hailed as Gen-Z’s musical prodigy revitalizing the genre of jazz.

Growing up in Iceland, music was the backbone of her childhood. Her mother was a classical violinist, her maternal grandparents were professional musicians in China, and her father had a taste for jazz. Laufey started playing the violin as soon as she could walk. Then came piano lessons, when she turned four– and cello, later on at eight years old.

In September of 2023, she released her much anticipated second album, “Bewitched.” Although the album contains the same themes as much of Laufey’s music– love, heartache, unrequited feelings, etc., “Bewitched” is bolder and more mature than her previous music. Still, the album is unmistakably about love.

The album opens with the jazzy track “Dreamer.” The track focuses on recognizing self-worth and self-love, something that is certainly more amplified and enunciated in “Bewitched.” Laufey promises, “You can’t pin me down / I fear all solid ground / I’d rather be alone at tea,” and in the chorus, “No boy’s gonna kill the dreamer in me.”

The second track, ironically named “Second Best,” talks about regretting loving someone who never felt the same way. Laufey sings softly to the hum of strings and piano– “I loved you so much that I settled for less / Oh, you were my everything / I was your second best.”

Other than being classically trained in music, Laufey also holds talent in lyricism. Her songs burst with vivid imagery, something that amplifies the experience of listening. She sings of “Nightingale singing half-hearted lullabies,” in “Second Best” and mentions of “rose perfume” in “Haunted,” a track about a former lover “haunting” her. Her poetic lyrics continue throughout the album– at the scream-worthy chorus of the track “Promise,” sung along to a subtle accompaniment, and the lyrics “When the gold rays fell on your skin,” in “Lovesick.”

The only upbeat song on the album is “From The Start,” breaking the pattern of rainy days and melancholy scattered across the album. Coined as a song for the “delulu girlies” (from both Laufey’s fans and Laufey herself), the track speaks of unrequited love. “From The Start” is an instant favorite for many listeners, whether it is the relatable lyrics (“Listening to you harp on ‘bout some new soulmate / ‘She’s so perfect,’ blah, blah, blah”) or the snazzy instrumental.

Laufey’s arguably best track on the album, “Letter To My 13 Year Old Self,” is one also one of the least recognized. The track reflects on Laufey’s childhood, and her worries. She sings, “I’m so sorry that they pick you last / Try to say your foreign name and laugh.” Laufey encourages herself to pursue her “silly” dreams, because “One day, you’ll be up on stage / Little girls will scream your name.”

Growing up biracial wasn’t always easy for Laufey– she often felt that she was living in multiple worlds. In her hometown in Iceland, she felt different and strange. Yet in China, she didn’t quite belong either. It wasn’t until she fully moved to the U.S. to study at the Berklee College of Music, where she graduated from in 2021, where she says she was really able to connect with herself.

“I’m so proud of being Asian and getting to connect with that side of myself is so special,” she said in an interview with ELLE Magazine. “It’s clear that there was something missing in pop culture and in pop music for Asian kids, someone to look up to. I always say I became the musician that I wanted and needed.”

The album closes perfectly with the namesake of the album, “Bewitched,” a track straight out of a fairytale. Accompanied by stunning strings, Laufey sings of how a spell was cast on her heart, and paints a picture of a romantic London evening. “The world froze around us, you kissed me good night / you bewitch me.”

Whether you’re into jazz or not, “Bewitched” stays true to its word, because it will certainly bewitch you. Laufey is certainly one to watch and I’m only eager to see what she’ll release next.

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About the Contributor
Amelia Bai, Editor in Chief
Amelia Bai is an eighth grader at Clague Middle School, and this is her third year writing for the Cougar Star. In her free time, she reads, obsesses over all things matcha, and prides herself on being a music fanatic.

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