** Maguire is the latest über talented diva to emerge from the British blue-eyed soul tradition.
**If you’re a sucker for the Dusty Springfield, Amy Winehouse, Duffy and Adele lineage, then Maguire is mandatory listening. The nimble vocalist embodies all the key traits of English soul: cool but tough, detached yet tender.
**** Embraces bold change.
**We expect our pop artists to always show us something new and different. It’s an expectation Maguire exceeds. After her debut, 2011’s Light After Dark, failed to capture her idiosyncratic talents, she went about rebuilding her music from the ground up. The result was the 2015 EP Don’t Mess Me Around, a marriage of post-modern blues, dark electronics and thumping hip-hop beats. She quickly returned to the studio to begin work on the songs that would comprise the intensely ruminative Stranger Things Have Happened, yet another major leap forward.
** She turned down Jay Z.
**That’s right. Before signing with Universal Music Group in 2009, she was courted by the entertainment mogul during an industry-geared gig at The Spotted Pig, his New York gastropub. According to an interview with The Guardian in 2011, he expressed interest in signing her, but Maguire passed. Any artist that confident demands to be heard.
** Maguire has that moody, Stevie Nicks** vibe down cold.
****The Fleetwood Mac vocalist boasts one of pop’s greatest voices, and any singer who can channel even a sliver of her haunted allure is all right in our book. While Maguire’s style is wholly her own, she unleashes an earth-moving vibrato that channels the witchy woman’s mysterious powers in the best ways imaginable.
**** Genre means nothing to Maguire.
**Though rooted in soul, the versatile musician infuses her sound with touches of goth, rock, jazz and even folk. Not only that, the retro-tinged Stranger Things Have Happened is so expansive it could appeal to Adele’s fan base as much as it could Dan Auerbach’s. The unclassifiable Nina Simone, one of Maguire’s biggest idols, surely would be proud.
**** Gotta love the neo-noir look.
****When Maguire hit the English pop scene in 2011 her visual style tended toward loud colors and flashy costumes befitting of club pop. But with her new album comes a new look: fuzzy, ’60s-inspired elegance that’s basically Pulp Fiction meets yé-yé meets Lana Del Rey. How awesome is that?
****Her skills as interpreter are once in a generation.
****Maguire knows how to crawl inside a song and make it her own. Over the last few years, she has recorded a slew of covers, including “House of the Rising Sun,” Ella Fitzgerald’s “Black Coffee” and the girl group nugget “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” Each one will send chills down your spine.
** Birmingham’s résumé is no joke.
**If an artist’s origins matter to you, then Maguire’s will certainly stand out. After all, her hometown also gave the world Black Sabbath, The English Beat, Judas Priest, Duran Duran and Electric Light Orchestra.
** Maguire’s howl is downright imposing.
**The British website Female First has described her as an “alpha female spirit.” It’s a quality that oozes from “Don’t Mess Me Around” and “The Valley,” two of the more commanding pop vocal performances of the last several years.
** We love survivor stories.
**From Johnny Cash to Iggy Pop, we passionately embrace those stars who descend into the blackened pits of self-destruction and live to sing about it. Stranger Things Have Happened chronicles the tale of a young artist who very nearly drowned in alcohol and depression, yet battled back, bravely seizing control of her art and career. As she sings in “Elizabeth Taylor,” one of the album’s most moving ballads, “I’ve loved, I’ve lost and loved again. But here I am, here I stand.” Amen.