‘This next song is a love song. I know! She does those?” Laufey is softly backlit, with a cherry-red electric guitar strapped over a white blouse, and despite her wry humour she’s about to perform another dreamily romantic song from her second album Bewitched, which last week won the Grammy for best traditional pop.
Blending jazz and classical influences into pop to tell retro, soft-focus fantasies full of “wine-stained lips”, handsome strangers and heartbreak, even Laufey’s most cynical songs are cinematic romances. On Dreamer, the 24-year-old claims to quit dating for good – “I’m throwing in my hat / I can’t take another lifeless little chat!” – yet the airy arrangement adds a theatrical wink, as if it’s the scene before the Hollywood heroine is finally swept off her feet.
Since her 2021 debut, the classically trained Icelandic Chinese musician has been somewhat patronisingly praised for “introducing” jazz to gen Z. This downplays Laufey’s talent for pop storytelling and underestimates her fans; tonight’s sold-out crowd reverently sing along with her unusual, honeyed contralto and scream for cello solos with the vigour usually reserved for a pop show’s confetti cannons.
With lounge-singer poise, Laufey floats through bossa nova single From the Start, performs the syrupy Best Friend as a skit with her violinist twin sister and chases early song Like the Movies with a hint of jazz standard Misty. Her self-proclaimed “old-fashioned” ways can soften her songs to a fault, but a heavier rendition of Lovesick punctures the lull, bringing fresh energy and possibly a sign of future experimentation.
“My younger self didn’t believe in herself as much as she should have,” Laufey admits, introducing Letter to My 13 Year Old Self as a gentle victory lap. Alone on stage, without the record’s strings, Laufey sings as if she’s looking in a mirror. “One day you’ll be up on stage, little girls will scream your name,” she croons, as her fans do just that, fulfilling her daydream like a Broadway chorus line. Then she ad libs, with a full grin: “… and you’ll win a Grammy!” Of all the night’s romances, this quiet ballad is the real fairytale.
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