In honor of me turning 30, I made mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 10 is Jamie Cullum.
Jamie Cullum’s Twentysomething and “Twentysomething,” the album and the song, respectively, were among the most important musical influences of my past decade. Fittingly, the album was released in 2004 when I was turning 20 myself. As I traversed the decade I found myself relating to many of the ideas sung about in that song as well as themes found elsewhere on the album.
When it came time to assemble the ultimate Cullum compilation, I knew that Twentysomething would factor heavily into the equation. In all, 10 of the album’s 15 tracks made the cut, highlighted by the title track. As the final days of my life as a twentysomething ticked away, I often played this track, singing along “But I’m still having fun and I guess that’s the key / I’m a twentysomething and I’ll keep being me.” The track, which has landed on mixes before, most recently resurfaced on Matt’s Mix 164: 30 > 20, as the track opener signaling the transition into the new phase of life. The album ends with Jay-Z’s “30 Something” and W.G. Snuffy Walden’s instrumental “Thirtysomething (Revisited”).
But while Cullum’s signature song and album no longer apply in name, they will always have a spot in my musical rotation. Twentysomething is a rich mix of original and covers that put Cullum’s ability as a crooner on full display. That term—crooner—is typically reserved for the likes of classics like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, but Cullum is the 21st century’s answer to those legends. Although he skews pop a little bit, Cullum seems to be most comfortable and most effective in jazz mode. From a chill, mellowed out rendition of Radiohead’s “High & Dry” to a jazzy twist on Jimi Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary” to the solemn, heart-wrenching version of Jeff Buckley’s “Lover You Should’ve Come Over” Cullum’s covers give the originals a run for their money.
The covers are great, but some of the original tracks are even better, led by “Twentysomething” which may just make a run at the number one song on a future 30 at 30 countdown for individual songs.
Interestingly, the songwriting credit to the opening track, “These Are the Days” goes to Ben Cullum, Jamie’s older brother, who Jamie credits as a major musical influence. “All At Sea” earned Cullum some radio airtime and is probably the most recognizable of his self-penned tunes. I’m also a big fan of “Next Year, Baby,” and I thought it was a fitting way to end the compilation. The song’s lyrics read a lot like my 30 at 30: Things I Want to Do in My 30s post. Essentially, it’s a song of resolutions for the new year. Everyone can relate to that.
Beyond the lyrics though, the music is what stands out from Cullum. He is unlike anyone else that has been featured on this countdown so far. Between him on piano and the brass section of his backing ban, Cullum’s soothing jazz sound stands out in an era of bumping, thumping beats.
In addition to the heavy presence of Twenysomething, my ultimate Cullum compilation features a pair of tracks from 2005’s Cathing Tales as well as three tracks apiece from 2009’s The Pursuit and 2013’s Momentum. The last remaining track, a cover of “It Ain’t Necessarily So, came from 2003’s Pointless Nostalgic.
Cullum’s vocal range makes him one of my favorite roadtrip singalongs. And I pretty much know all of Twentysomething by heart. Regardless of the title, I imagine I’ll be revisiting those tracks for years and years to come.
MM 30 at 30: Jamie Cullum tracklist (finalized July 7, 2014)
1. These Are the Days
2. It’s About Time
3. London Skies
4. All at Sea
7. But For Now
8. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over
9. Edge of Something
10. Wind Cries Mary
11. It Ain’t Necessarily So
13. Mind Trick
14. Don’t Stop the Music
16. High & Dry
17. Save Your Soul
18. Blame It On My Youth
19. Next Year, Baby