Truth be told, I was wondering about Maysa. In what feels like a previous life, I reviewed local, regional and national jazz acts for a weekly paper in my hometown. I still remember some of the songs that Maysa presented on her second solo album, “All My Life” (2000). The candor and style with which she sung about life’s complexities come to me years later. “What happened to Maysa?” I asked myself. And, with digital tools at my disposal, I found out.
A New Translation
Maysa’s new album has a touch of the familiar. “Love is a Battlefield” has a track of the same name, and yes, it is that “Love is a Battlefield.” I was curious how Pat Benatar’s pop-rock classic would translate to jazz. That is the interesting part of cover songs that switch genres—seeing what happens in the translation. So, I pressed play and I waited. What I heard was a subtle rendering of Benator’s iconic tune. The sparse arrangement allowed Maysa’s voice to shine. And by “shine” I mean that the mood was different. The narrator of this version is war weary and wise. Benatar’s narrator sounded in the mood for a fight.
A Matter of Maysa’s Style
Maysa pronounces all the words with the right intonation and emphasis. Listeners can hear each word perhaps more clearly even than in the original, and that’s important here. The song’s narrative gets all the attention. The beauty of this “translation” is that the universal truth of the song isn’t lost. Even for those who remember the ladies in the video dressed up in fit and flare satin dresses and accessorized with pumps and fascinators, the truth is still there, in this new, quieter version.
The Rock to Jazz Transition
A number of aspects have to be taken into consideration when a song assumes a new life in another genre. When a song traverses one genre to another, there can be risks involved. The most obvious risk might be that the new set of listeners are unfamiliar with the song. Which could also work in the artist’s favor, but audiences tend to want to know a song’s history if it is not original. Then, there is the question of the arrangement, which might also be called what will it sound like to make horns act like guitars or vice versa. Time signatures and vocal qualities also need to be taken into consideration. For the unaware, Maysa’s treatment of “Love is a Battlefield” could sound like an original piece, an all-new work for new audiences. That truth is whenever a person gets his or her emotions entangled with another’s, a fight of one kind or another ensues.
To answer my original question, Maysa has matured and tackled new material. She’s been recording work and earning audiences along the way. Her work has grown up in some ways, but in terms of earnest representation of songs, Maysa has not changed, and that is probably the best news of all.