After she won the Open Mic UK music competition in 2008 at the tender age of 12, Jasmine van den Bogaerde, aka Birdy, has gone from strength to strength, amazing even the harshest critic with her beautifully angelic voice.
Her self-titled debut album however divided the critics, as it was a collation of song covers. Whilst there are many who adore Birdy’s unique take on some truly brilliant Indie songs, others have coined the album as an unoriginal reflection of her age.
When taking into account that she’s supposed to be a singer-songwriter it is frustrating that she released an album of other people’s songs. Personally speaking though, it didn’t stop me enjoying the album; I like covers when done well and Birdy certainly does them well, in fact she does them brilliantly.
Her versions are not simply tributes to the originals, they take on a mind of their own and a sound that almost makes them completely different songs. I’m sure many listeners who aren’t familiar with the originals will indeed think that these are Birdy’s songs; whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen.
The track she’s most famous for, a cover of Indie folk band Bon Iver’s Skinny Love, is quite altered from the original. Birdy’s piano is a notable addition as it replaces the original guitar. I’m a huge Bon Iver fan, but I favour Birdy’s haunting version because it’s quite simply beautiful. There’s a certain preciousness to her voice, a resonance of purity that’s powerful and delicate at the same time, without ever sounding childish.
Another favourable track on the album is Birdy’s stripped down take on the originally up-tempo 1901, by French alternative rock band Phoenix. She turns it into a ballad with melancholy piano and whilst it isn’t as good as the original, which is so beloved by Indie rock fans, it does make for a relaxing and enjoyable listen.
Other covers include Young Blood (The Naked and Famous), People Help The People (Cherry Ghost) and Shelter (The xx), the latter of which I actually prefer to the original. With so much more emotion it has the power to give you goose bumps, where the original fell short. Not featured on the album, but well worth a listen anyway is the Shelter Photek Remix, which sounds like a dubstep combination of Birdy’s version and The xx’s original.
The album overall has a mournful tone, but it also has a calming, serene quality that stops it from being maudlin, something which will appeal to listeners of all ages. There’s a tendency, as this review has proved, to constantly compare each of the songs to the originals, which can be terribly distracting and the main downfall of the album.
It’s easy to forget that Birdy is still just 16; her voice has a wisdom far beyond her years that’s quite remarkable. She’s just contributed to the Hunger Games soundtrack and the soundtrack to the Pixar film Brave with Mumford & Sons, so she’s clearly on a straight path to being a star. Her next album however needs to be more. It needs to prove that Birdy can be completely original and write her own music.
Covers are great if a cover artist is all you ever want to be, but it ‘s difficult to tell the talent of an artist who essentially just rearranges and recreates other people’s songs.