Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox
by Mark Crampton
I ran across Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox, as I so often find new and (sometimes) curious music interests, while surfing on YouTube Music. That day, I was specifically searching for covers of modern rock/pop in Jazz, Blues, or Swing style (remember – I do NOT particularly like modern rock/pop and find the radio dial generally to be a wasteland!)
Boys and girls, I hit the freakin’ JACKPOT when I stumbled across Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (PMJ)! http://postmodernjukebox.com/ Bradlee leads what he calls a “music collective” – more than just a company or team or stable or even association of musicians, more than just shows on the concert circuits, PMJ is essentially a family of musicians, singers and dancers!
Bradlee said his intention is to bridge a gap – to take modern(ish) rock/pop style songs and fundamentally transform them into some other style of music.
Because people who don’t like a particular music group or singer question ALL that groups’ music!
They may not like a good song just because THAT group is playing it, not actually dislike the song itself! So, perhaps someone didn’t like the song in its original form by the original recorders, but will like the way PMJ covered it in an entirely different style.
[NOTE: Which is, incidentally, pretty much how I feel about much modern music! I mean, for some examples, I really cannot stand Steely Dan, Lady Gaga, Celene
Dion, Bruno Mars, Wheezer, Backstreet Boys, Myley Cyrus (well, who CAN stand her?) – yet PMJ has done covers of songs from all of these that I DO really like!]
At the most recent count, PMJ’s YouTube channel has over 3.1 Million subscribers (including yours truly!) with over 800 Million – that’s Million with a very big M in both cases! – collective views since the beginning!
PMJ started back in 2009 when Bradlee and a group of friends (Chris Anderson – upright bass; Ben Golder-Novick – sax; Brandee Younger – harp; and Emma Walker – vocalist) began shooting self-made low-budget music videos in the living room of his tiny NY basement apartment.
In 2010 PMJ released their first video to YouTube, a cover of Lady Gaga’s “Papparizzi” https://youtu.be/CnFQdDl5qEg. However, PMJ’s big break really came on November 24 th , 2011, thanks to the local public discord caused by the Canadian band Nickleback http://www.nickelback.com/ being booked to play the Thanksgiving Halftime show at Detroit’s Ford Field – there was actually a petition that raised over 55,000 signatures to stop them from playing because they weren’t American and it was an American sport on an American holiday!
Bradlee quickly filmed and released – on Thanksgiving morning BEFORE the disputed halftime show (which, yes, Nickleback DID go on and play) the video “A Motown Tribute to Nickleback” https://youtu.be/3KzP4bC1Ypg – playing one of the maligned groups’ songs in 60s Motown style – which pulled over 1.5 million views the first week on YouTube!
[NOTE: PMJ later recorded an entire album – 7 songs – of Nickleback covers!
After sampling each of them separately – I just ordered the album on Amazon. I had really only liked ONE of these songs as originally done by Nickleback!]
After the success of this video, PMJ began releasing other videos recorded over the previous year or so, with other artists who drifted in and out of Bradlee’s apartment, to YouTube, as well as ramping up current/future recording efforts!
The next video was Macklemore and Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” https://youtu.be/4Cnm0tdkJEU with Robyn Adele Anderson http://www.robynadele.com/ singing, done in “Vintage Grandpa Style” – drums, electric piano, upright bass.
Singer Lorde gave her approval and recognition to PMJ’s initial cover of “Royals”
https://youtu.be/VBmCJEehYtU by Puddles Pity Party http://www.puddlespityparty.com/. Since then, several other PMJ singers have also made covers of “Royals” in different styles.
[NOTE: Many original artists – and, obviously, their record companies – have given nods of approval – and even appreciation – of PMJ covering their music.]
Cosmopolitan magazine requested PMJ come to their NYC office to film a musical tribute to 2013 https://youtu.be/FStVXiu-0bQ – incidentally, this mash-up was set up and filmed in one take – no do–overs! https://youtu.be/V1nL_Ry7z5k Meghan Trainor’s funk hit “All About That Bass” https://youtu.be/iyTTX6Wlf1Y was PMJ’s next hit, with Kate Davis http://www.katedavismusic.com/ singing while playing upright bass in 40s Jazz style, with only piano and drums accompanying. [NOTE: this song is now the official finale of all PMJ’s shows on tour.]
Four of my favorite singers are PMJ members, here together in another video take on “All About That Bass” https://youtu.be/aLnZ1NQm2uk :
Haley Reinhart https://www.haleyreinhart.com/home-1 ; Morgan James http://www.morganjamesonline.com/ ; Ariana Savalas (yes, “Kojak”s daughter! If you don’t know who he is, ask someone else!) https://www.arianasavalas.com/; and Casey Abrams (from Austin!) https://caseybassy.com/.
And some videos from each of them individually: Haley Reinhart doing a Marilyn Monroe-styled cover of “Oops I did it Again”
https://youtu.be/g_HN50TLuaI ; Morgan James doing a 60s Beach Boys Surf cover of “Barbie Girl” https://youtu.be/4ReSV3CCRzg ; and “Roxanne” as soul https://youtu.be/VeLD3ZCpC30 ; Ariana Savalas doing a Bob Fosse-styled jazz cover of “Single Ladies” https://youtu.be/yQGFeRI0qbg ; Casey Abrams doing a classic blues cover of “Sweet Child ‘O Mine”. https://youtu.be/bZpdXgsI6C0 ; Robyn Adele Anderson doing a 50s Do-Wop cover of “I Kissed a Girl” https://youtu.be/GW0zsiNUrz8, 20s ragtime covers of “YMCA” (with tap dancer) https://youtu.be/efk7YnGDPZs, “My Hump” https://youtu.be/bRsDIUji_sw, and “Call Me Maybe” https://youtu.be/5meWI3iX1sE.
“Toxic” covered as a 30s style Torch song https://youtu.be/ZILsHowUjpQ.
“Dancing in the Dark” in 50s Do-Wop Diner style https://youtu.be/X-Ziw_TwXrM.
“Stacey’s Mom” https://youtu.be/T2kOj-GFN8k, “Careless Whisper” (with Dave
Koz) https://youtu.be/lVXziMFEqX0 and “Thriller” (complete with zombie tap
dancers!) https://youtu.be/td-_pUPVjdo all covered in 20s/30s Hot Jazz style.
“Gangster’s Paradise” https://youtu.be/Rve03u7oEvI and “Wiggle” https://youtu.be/pDl9SDd1FJY in 20’s Chicago Jazz style.
So, perhaps you are jaded with the lack of selection on local radio stations – or you just don’t like the music being played – get out of your rut – try something different – give something new by PMJ a listen.
Currently, there are two separate PMJ tours, Europe and America. At times, there have been up to four tours going on at the same time. Bradlee says that every show is different, that he himself never knows who will appear when or where on tour. He explains it in the FAQ section of the website
Singers, dancers and musicians move in and out of PMJ, for family commitments, solo careers, on and off-Broadway stage shows, returning for specific videos, shows and tours.
The PMJ 2017 American tour will play at Austin City Limits Live at Moody Theatre on December 3rd and at the Tobin Center for Performing Arts in San Antonio, Texas on December 4th
Postscript: I am already working on another article – The burlesque music/comedy duo The Skivvies http://www.theskivviesnyc.com/ . Lauren Molina (also a member of PMJ) and Nick Cearley perform on stage clad ONLY in underwear https://youtu.be/XghRPQMKsI4 – as do all their guests:
https://youtu.be/k8NBjUjyub8 and https://youtu.be/Sao2ixZi8_4 !
What do you think?