Hidden gems can often find listeners at the strangest times. That includes when they’re out walking their dog, like Jenevieve was in a Los Angeles-area park back in July, before the 24-year-old vocalist stumbled on an abandoned box full of albums.
“There’s some CDs. I wasn’t gonna touch it because it was on the ground,” she says. “And then I just looked through, and I saw an Aaliyah CD. And I kind of got chills. I was like, ‘Why would anybody do this?’”
It’s a fair question.
There’s no logical conclusion to make as to why any somewhat-reasonable person would leave a copy of Aaliyah’s One in a Million–a CD that was out-of-production at that point for over two decades–in a box in the park. But nevertheless, Jenevieve found something precious when she was least expecting it, which is exactly what it feels like to come across her music for most who’ve been keeping up with her.
Her debut album, Division, dropped in September on the same day a certain music heavyweight decided to put out his own long-awaited LP, Certified Lover Boy. While Drake dominated charts for a couple months as he does, and while most artists would fear being outshined by such a big release, Division has still continued to be that box-in-the-park for listeners who’ve recognized Jenevieve’s breezy neo-soul and dangerously addictive pop last year. Now, the LP — created alongside producer and songwriter BENZIBOY — has given Jenevieve enough material and buzz to take on her first two proper headlining gigs ever at The Echo in Los Angeles and Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco this month.
When we catch up on the phone in late January, Jenevieve has wrapped up practicing her set with her live band, making sure everything runs accordingly–from perfecting the ‘80s punch of title track “Division” to very likely ensuring her voice dazzles on dreamy R&B kicker “Baby Powder,” her breakthrough single responsible for nearly 40 million streams on Spotify.
While the Interscope-backed blossomer is still waiting to properly hear her music on the radio–which has been a long-term goal for her–she’s already recognized it in public, and has seen it soundtracking some pretty high-profile hangouts. Hell, even Kanye West, Antonio Brown, Floyd Mayweather, Julia Fox, and Madonna were all bumping it in an Instagram clip just a few weeks ago. “Shoutout to whoever was DJing at the SoHo House,” she shares.
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“I’ve heard my songs enough in stores, just shopping. There was somebody driving and then they were playing it,” she recalls. “But you know, just the fact that people are listening, that’s great. But radio’s like, you know, that’s like a whole other thing.”
Radio may very well become the next home for Jenevieve’s vast musical IQ, which is thanks in part due to her childhood roots and early love for dance, in no time. As she’s shared, she began dancing the moment she could walk and credits much of her music taste–which began with a draw to acts like Sade–to those formative years surrounded by everything from flamenco to hip-hop.
“There was a lot of Cuban music around me growing up,” Jenevieve says. “So it was like the live music and feeling of music with dance as well. It was just a mixture of like, you know, hip-hop, Britney Spears, or like Michael Jackson. And then like, I’ll go to salsa class, or just hear the instrumental flamenco music.”
As for the Jacksons, the comparisons have certainly been tossed around over the last couple of years. Some of the poppier cuts off Division have seen nods to Michael or Janet, and Jenevieve’s music video for “No Sympathy” has a similar pop-arty animated flair as Jackson’s 1987 track “Leave Me Alone.” She credits Al Jarreau for inspiring that visual in particular, too, and says plenty of what you see on the screen is also a reflection of her admiration of cinema.
“A movie definitely has inspired me to get emotional to write a song. Or, like, sometimes a song will remind me of a movie,” she says. “And I’m trapped in the feeling that maybe that movie reminded me of something in my life or like. If I’m watching a movie, and I’m feeling a certain way, maybe I’d want to put that feeling that I felt in a song.”
Visuals aside, Jenevieve’s future is looking bright in the months ahead. Not just in terms of her upcoming headlining gigs, but for her own artistic growth following the release of her debut. Division may have established her as a hidden gem of sorts for some fans this past year, but for her, it’s time for more listeners to discover that box in the park.
“I still feel like I have more to show,” she says. “So it is a good introduction. But I still feel like I
have more to introduce”