Postmodern Jukebox seeks to break down the barriers between eras, culture and music. By creating old-fashioned covers of modern songs, PMJ demonstrates just how more complex genres are than they originally appeared.
Launched in 2011 by Scott Bradlee, an unemployed New York jazz pianist, Postmodern Jukebox crosses all genres to create something interesting and new. The business started in Bradlee’s basement, and his work has evolved into acclaim in a variety of musical circles. Using YouTube to post his creations and those of his friends, Bradlee eventually found work creating music content online.
Bradlee notes that PMJ is not intended to imitate or copy the sound of the artists they cover. In fact, the music seeks to create so much distance between the sound of the original artist and the new feel of the cover.
With a roster of over 50 rotating artists, there is no shortage of talent within this group. Each performer brings a different expertise to the group, whether in a particular instrument or genre.
Although there are no limits to their style choices, PMJ is famous for its swing, blues and jazz covers. From their masterfully raucous jazz version of Radiohead’s “Creep” to a Beach Boys’ take on “Barbie Girl”, no decade or genre is off limits. It is believed that many of the genres Bradlee uses to reinterpret modern sounds are long dead. Using Motown and doo-wop sounds, PMJ’s work serves as an introduction to many older styles of music.
Each song fits perfectly into its new genre, even if it seems out of place at first glance. Who knew the Jonas Brothers would sound great in disco or that Billie Eilish would flourish in tango? To reimagine those tunes, Bradlee says he examines the music and the original style of the song to see what it is trying to convey and chooses a genre that would suit that style or message well.
Postmodern Jukebox shows audiences that genre categorization is an active choice – just because a song isn’t in a genre you love doesn’t mean it’s inherently bad. The lyrics can still be relevant and the melody can be catchy, even if the style isn’t for you. Often times people make sweeping judgments about music that cut them off from many styles and artists that they might possibly find interesting.
Many modern songs lend themselves to classical interpretations, which shows that modern music is not worse at its roots – it is simply arranged differently. Rap might not be your style, but this 1920s version of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ or klezmer style ‘Talk Dirty’ with Yiddish rap might be perfect for you. PMJ’s relentless pursuit of interesting and original music shows that each genre has something to add to the music scene.
Many believe that the golden age of music is over and that modern music does not live up to the high standards set by previous musicians. The nostalgia factor involved with PMJ is interesting and compelling to many listeners, but talent is what really drives the band.
While Postmodern Jukebox is a strong argument for modern pop and rock music, it also demonstrates the enduring nature of some genres that have fallen apart. By introducing soul, jazz and big band styles into a popular context, PMJ invites the public to further explore these genres.
Younger audiences aren’t always exposed to older styles of music, but Bradlee and his musicians stream those sounds straight to their phones and headphones. For older listeners, PMJ offers a look back at the music they enjoyed throughout their childhood.
With over 4 million YouTube subscribers and over 1 billion views, the group’s popularity and influence continues to grow. With world tours, merchandise and a constant flow of albums, Postmodern Jukebox has made its mark since its inception. Some of the group’s most famous alumni, like Hayley Reinhart and Morgan James, have even made their names in the music industry outside of PMJ.
Whether you love country, rap, pop, or rock, there is probably something about the Postmodern Jukebox YouTube channel that will appeal to you. With 350 videos to choose from so far and a new upload every week, PMJ covers an incredible amount of content. Several of their albums have even caused a sensation in the jazz charts and indie albums, which very few cover groups manage to reach.
Whatever next step for the group is likely to be important as their fan base continues to grow. Whether the future consists of more tours or more famous collaborations, PMJ seems determined to stay true to its original goal: to make high quality music with exceptional talent.