"DeAnna is a huge talent. She reminds me of some of the great folk singers of the sixties and seventies. Back then, singers had a reason to sing such as social justice, anti race or anti war. Today, fame and fortune. She brings me back. " -- a Voice Forum commenterIn case you haven't guessed, this a fan-site for singer DeAnna Johnson.
When I first heard DeAnna sing on The Voice, it completely blew my mind. Something about her tone and delivery connected deeply with me, and in a good way reminded me of other singers that have also touched my soul. I never have pinned down who she resembles the most -- I think of the great folk-soul-pop of Joan Armatrading and her rich contralto voice, I think of the breath of fresh-air that Chrissie Hynde delivered with her flipped lyrics and unique phrasing, I think of the range and light-touch that Kate Bush mastered in dramatic style, and I think of the exuberance of Laura Nyro where she would blend together different musical genres, often within the same song. And then DeAnna has something even beyond those talents, where she seems to channel a timeless voice from some distant past or otherworldly place.
From her performances on The Voice, DeAnna echoes other timeless singers ranging from Patsy Cline to Grace Slick and even on occasion sounding eerily like Siouxsie Sioux with her out-of-nowhere banshee quaver and growl. Sometimes she takes on a Celtic lilt, which is engaging considering that she has the equally charming southern drawl of First Lady Rosalynn Carter when she speaks. And the power in her voice has clearly not been fully tapped, imagining that she could out even out bull-horn someone like Eddie Vedder if she so desired.
Yet ultimately, she sounds like no one else and as her coach Adam Levine related is instantly recognizable the moment she starts singing. To my ears, that means everything.
Every one of DeAnna's cover songs is captivating in some way. The fact that she takes on Christian songs is no worry IMO -- think of the classic soulful reggae songs that celebrate Jah in lyrics. Music is music and takes you places that you may not normally visit.
Where does her singing come from? From The Voice backstory we learn that her classmates didn't necessarily appreciate her singing style. No surprise there, as being different while limiting the outrageousness is not necessarily a mass appeal route. It took guts to take a shot in a singing competition and then try again a year and a half later. I don't know why that boggles my mind, but for the fact that her family also believed in her and that her own faith and confidence would carry her through. That is frankly inspiring on only those terms. As one newspaper columnist described it, DeAnna simply vanquished any terror that may have faced her and IMO put on spellbinding and hypnotic performances every time she took the stage. Please read this article on how a professional voice coach set DeAnna as an example of someone that battled her way through the challenges she faced and eventually excelled.
I am always for the underdog, but ultimately what I want is to hear more music from her. That's what fans crave. Indications are that DeAnna may go an Indie/Folk route, which means that she may take a do-it-yourself approach to putting out her music. I am not even remotely connected to the recording industry, yet from what I have learned, conventional recording contracts are not what they are cracked up to be, so it may be a smart way to go.
The lesson is that one can be successful working on your own terms, and having confidence in the direction that you have taken.
If DeAnna sets her goals and a half, she is going places. I will support her the whole way, however the journey unfolds :)
Turning Hazlehurst Red
Turning Hazlehurst Red
Article on DeAnna Johnson in Jeff Davis Living magazine
A Fan's Request... or which songs I wish DeAnna would cover ...
True fan-dom occurs when you don't care what your favorite artist sings for their next release. The fun is in the surprise and watching the artist interpret the song and flip the words to fit their style.
But others like to make suggestions. The obvious covers are songs by Cher and Crystal Gayle who fans say DeAnna reminds them of. Some also say Florence and the Machines, as she sometimes has a Celtic lilt in he voice (and DeAnna is a known fan of Florence :).
Please add other suggestions in the comments below.
To get started, I can indulge with a few of my own suggestions. Joshua Davis complimented DeAnna on her hypnotizing voice, Adam said that no one else sounds like her (agreed 100%), and I would be completely spellbound if she did any of these covers.
- "Water" by J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. This is a melodic lo-fi indie-folk song performed here and as usual has the gonzo Mascis guitar . The lyrics of course have that water theme open to multiple interpretations. I like the way that Mascis's voice breaks, which DeAnna also does with goose-bump inducing effect. Other woman singers have done this tune, including a smooth interpretation by Cloudberry Jam -- listen to a snippet here. Do this one and become a critics darling.
- "Stoney End" by Laura Nyro. Laura Nyro was the first soul-folk singer-songwriter. This is a tune that Barbara Streisand!, Linda Ronstadt, Beth Neilsen Chapman, and more recently Sara Bareilles covered. It is one of those songs with lots of dynamics and again ambiguous lyrics open to interpretation. Anything else by Laura Nyro is good such as Save The Country, which is a Gospel/Folk workout with more of that evocative water imagery.
- "Rainy Night in Georgia" by Tony Joe White. This is a classic covered by many, and I luckily had a chance to see Tony Joe do this at Montreux two years ago. Here is the indie-folk rendition by Hem. Doing "Help Me Make it Through the Night" leads directly to this tune.
- "Brass in Pocket" by The Pretenders. DeAnna does similar creative word-flipping and pronunciations as Chrissy Hynde, listen here. Mia Z could do this as well. It's just a cool song that isn't a specific genre of music.
- "Running Up That Hill" by Kate Bush. A kind of baroque indie-folk song with evocative lyrics filled with imagery. The original is here but there are other interpretations such as a more bare-bones version by Placebo.
- "Rosewood Bitters" by Michael Stanley Band. An obscure song but later covered here in a version by Joe Walsh. DeAnna can flip this kind of song from male to female and just take off with the melody and reconstructing as a modern indie folk tune.
- "Had I Known You Better Then" by Hall&Oates. An early soul-folk tune by the duo. There is the original and an unplugged live version from a couple of years ago. Multitrack DeAnna's vocals on a gorgeous melody and the results would be amazing -- or at least I can imagine it :)
Bottom line is that I look forward to anything that DeAnna decides to cover :)
Update: DeAnna made a great choice with her cover of Sam Smith's "Like I Can". I was honestly :) going to include a Sam song for her to cover in the above list, but thinking that would be too obvious given that we could see her practicing one of Sam's hits (Stay with Me ) with her dad during her Voice introduction spot. What is great about her selection is that the song has lots of dynamics and she does her usual impressive job of flipping the lyrics and bringing the soul and basically nailing it ... in hoops-speak, nothing but net, yesss. Can't wait for the next cover !
What should I do for my next YouTube video?☺️— DeAnna✨ (@DeAnnaJohnson23) June 8, 2015
Another song springs to mind : Love and Affection by Joan Armatrading, gospel-tinged folk that DeAnna could absolutely own.
A little known but classic singer that DeAnna could cover is A Girl Called Eddy
Sammy is lobbying to have DeAnna cover this really cool slow blues tune called "Don't You Want to Know"