Band of the Day

2012.01.29

Little Jackie

Motown revival with tongue-in-cheek lyrics that are distinctly 21st century
This stoop is my throne, this hood is my home, and the sky's always blue by the brownstones.
lyrics from The Stoop

Little Jackie is a group from Brooklyn, New York featuring singer Imani Coppola and multi-instrumentalist Adam Pallin. Coppola, who came into the music scene with her mainstream 1997 hit song "Legend of a Cowgirl," formed Little Jackie in 2008 with production and songwriting assistance from Digable Planets producer Michael Mangini (who also produced "Legend of a Cowgirl"). The group's name came from the Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam song "Little Jackie Wants to Be a Star," and in the spirit of that song, Little Jackie's style is a modern blend of vintage '60s soul infused with hip hop rhythms and Coppola's half-rap/half-soul singing style. The Stoop LP, a titular homage to New York neighborhood culture, was released by independent label S-Curve Records in 2008. The album's single "The World Should Revolve Around Me," charted at #92 on Billboard's Pop chart and soared to #14 in the UK. The album itself fared critically well in the mainstream press, and was supported by a number of TV appearances. The group's sophomore LP Made For TV was released independently in 2011.

One cursory listen to Brooklyn duo Little Jackie, and you might think that they're just another band trying to cash in on the Motown revival fad, which was made famous in recent years by producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse). The twelve songs from their 2011 independently-released album Made4TV are all full of the typical combination of sassy horns and saxophones, swelling strings, hand claps, and background vocals—thanks to production work by Adam Pallin. Singer/songwriter Imani Coppola even sounds vaguely Winehouse-like. Then, when you actually start listening to Coppola's lyrics, you realize that these songs are exceedingly zany and clever—and 100% her own. Take “31 Flavors,” which could be an ode to the Baskin Robbins ice cream chain. But she doesn't sing about wanting to try flavors like Jamoca Almond Fudge and Cherries Jubilee. She'd rather have 31 flavors of men: “When I'm with one man, I kinda feel like I'm dyin'/so consider my infidelities self-defense.” One of the original girl groups, The Chordettes, scored a number one hit in 1954 with “Mr. Sandman,” a song that had lyrics asking for the man of their dreams to be delivered to them (one with “lots of wavy hair like Liberace” and “lips like roses and clover”). Little Jackie employs a similar technique in “Fairy Tale Ending,” with Imani updating the requests to reference modern-day pop culture icons like Johnny Depp and George Clooney (but she'll “settle for Shrek or a sexy pale vampire to bite my neck”). If you're the type of person who never pays attention to lyrics, put on track four from the album without looking at the title—at first, you might just think it's another cool, 60s-sounding song. But like the explicit title itself (“Cck Block”), the unashamedly blunt lyrics will manage to grab the attention of even the most passive listener: “Clouding up my clarity, dictation/strange impulsive decisions screwin' with my intuition/there must be a cck blocking my vision,” sings Coppola. Yes, it's crass. Yes, it's absurd. Yes, Coppola seems to relish in the fact that she doesn't edit her thoughts to be tasteful. Once you accept that Little Jackie doesn't take themselves too seriously, and that their music seems to all be made for fun's sake, you'll find yourself falling for songs that are—at their very core—all brilliantly catchy, feel-good pop tunes.