Scott Bradlee deserves a victory lap. For five years as the founder and leader of Postmodern Jukebox, he’s taken the hits of today and given them the vintage sounds of yesteryear, with the assistance of many very talented friends. His live-in-the-living-room rearrangements have earned him more than half a billion views on YouTube, all without major label support or corporate sponsorship. You would think that The Essentials, a collection of greatest hits, would be an ideal capper to this remarkable achievement.
But there’s still the sense that Bradlee has something to prove – he’s looking to place this album high on the Billboard charts as he takes PMJ on its North American tour this month. “No more talk of Postmodern Jukebox as a ‘YouTube act,’ or ‘online viral sensation,’” he says. “This is real, we’re here to stay, and we’re ready to change the music industry.”
Bradlee’s modus operandi with Postmodern Jukebox has stayed consistent. He covers a new song every week, one room, one take, no overdubs, with a rotating cast of nattily dressed performers (Bradlee calls it “something of an ‘SNL for singers’”), and an old-timey sound, with Bradlee’s piano being the one constant. This schedule has allowed him to release a whopping twelve albums in three years, giving him a rich catalog from which to select the eighteen songs that make up The Essentials. Bradlee’s included the biggest viral hits – “Creep” sung by Haley Reinhart, and “Royals” with the unforgettable Puddles the Clown. He’s also sought out the most outstanding vocal performances – I nominate Mykal Gilmore’s turn on “My Heart Will Go On” as especially remarkable – and the retro-est of retro sounds. “Stacey’s Mom” never said 1930’s hot jazz to me before, but after hearing Casey Abrams perform it that way, it will forever.