Arts & Entertainment

ARTIST REVIEW: The bewitching Laufey revives the classical and jazz genres

Icelandic singer Laufey has merged classical and jazz music with pop to create a nostalgic sound that transcends modern music expectations.

In the blink of an eye, another month has gone by. February is here, and the world seems eager to celebrate love and friendship this coming Valentine’s Day. Since I am also feeling quite giddy, I thought I’d share an artist that I recently discovered after exploring some genres that might encapsulate some new rising feelings. After some hefty digging and several hours of listening, I have to say, no one captures the essence of love quite like Laufey.  

Laufey Lín Bing Jónsdóttir is an Icelandic and half-Chinese singer and songwriter. Coming from a prodigious family of musicians, Laufey has always been deeply involved with music, but most particularly, classical music. At the age of four, Laufey had already learned how to play the piano. At age 8, she had learned how to play the cello. And by the age of 15, Laufey had performed as a cello soloist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. 

During this time in Iceland, Laufey auditioned and performed in “Iceland Got Talent,” otherwise known as the Icelandic version of “Britain’s/America’s Got Talent.” Though she did not win, she made it to the finals and went off to audition for “The Voice Iceland,” where she managed to reach the semi-finals. 

In 2018, Laufey graduated from the Reykjavík College of Music, where she not only studied the cello and piano, but also singing. In 2021, she graduated from the Berklee College of Music with a presidential scholarship.  

It was in 2020—a year before her graduation—that she recorded her debut single “Street by Street,” and almost immediately charted number one in Icelandic Radio. On April 30 of the same year, she dropped her first EP containing six songs, titled “Typical of Me.” She received acclaim for this EP from Rolling Stone Magazine, who praised her rendition of “I Wish You Love.” Bigger artists such as Billie Eilish and Willow Smith additionally shared public praise of this up-and-coming artists EP.   

Later that year, Laufey collaborated with London’s Philharmonic Orchestra, where she released the single “Let You Break My Heart Again.” This song reached the top of the charts through TikTok and brought forth a larger international following for Laufey. Recently though, Laufey signed a record deal with Warner Chapell Music and released her second album “Bewitched.” It was met with even higher praise, critical acclaim and led to her being awarded her very first Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards.  

Laufey posing with her Grammy award after winning Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album of 2024. Via @laufey on Instagram.

The album “Bewitched” was my first encounter with Laufey’s work, and it was quite extraordinary. I can’t say I’m a jazz connoisseur, but as a former violinist, I do know a bit about classical music. Laufey has openly explained that she wishes to revive jazz and classical music, as most of her inspiration comes from musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. At the same time, she has remained true to her classical music roots by implementing gorgeous arrangements of string instruments throughout her entire discography.  

Laufey’s voice is an ever-changing butterfly, adapting its tone to the theme of each song. A song about heartbreak such as “Haunted” brings a soft, melancholic, syrupy sweetness, though her voice could also be described as being consistently hearty and warm. Whereas a song about re-emerging love such as “Valentine” brings an escalating, wistful tone, looking back on past rejection, yet fluttering eagerly whenever she mentions her new love.  

In this album, Laufey introduces vocal jazz techniques such as scatting that haven’t been heard in popular music for decades. She does this all while expertly entwining two beautiful genres such as classical instrumentals and jazz into fizzy pop. Her music encourages an even deeper appreciation for nostalgia and romance. and carries an elegance throughout due to Laufey’s masterful voice control. Her voice is unmistakable, and absolutely gorgeous.   

To be as precise as possible, her music is made to be relished in the little joys life has to offer. Even her hopeless romantic tunes can be enjoyed with a glass of wine, some cheese and a warm tub full of lush bubbles. Her puppy love showstoppers are made to be swayed and dipped in the arms of a lover. And some of her more upbeat works can be enjoyed in social gatherings; a pleasant candlelit dinner with your platonic soulmates. 

Overall, I’d admit that Laufey’s music is not something I’d immediately be drawn towards. But there is something bewitching about her voice and musical composition. For first time listeners, I’d recommend listening to her London Philharmonic Orchestra collaboration single, “Let You Break My Heart,” and the entirety of her second album “Bewitched.” Laufey’s entire discography is available through all music streaming platforms.  

Furthermore, Laufey will be performing live in Seattle on April 9. I will be going with my partner to enjoy the Laufey experience to the fullest. I highly encourage everyone to check out this live music event if you’d like to treat yourself, your friends or your partners to an evening full of beautiful music. Tickets are currently still on sale through Ticketmaster, AXS and the venue website, Paramount Theatre Seattle.