The Music Enjoyer: Jasmine Danielle

The Music Enjoyer: Jasmine Danielle

"The Music Enjoyer" is a series in which I ask music-oriented people for a bit of their musical DNA — the music they listened to when they were younger, the music they listen to now — and also for some practical info, like their favorite ways to find music and actually listen to it.

Last time on The Music Enjoyer, keyboard player / composer Robin Hatch (recently featured in the Los Angeles Times as part of the current Porno For Pyros lineup) shared a bit of her elite listening habits, from Rooney to Gino Vannelli. Since publishing that post, I've started putting Chick Corea live performances on the television while I read my print subscription of The New Yorker. Good taste is contagious, bien sûr.

Now we have Jasmine Danielle in the Music Enjoyer hotseat. Jasmine is a now longtime friend-thru-the-internet, a person with an essentially 100% hit rate of correct assessments about pop music and pop culture. Common sense thought IS possible...

Jasmine has a podcast called Black Bubblegum that I recommend vigorously to you. It's a "nostalgic and contemporary pop culture analysis podcast" that covers artists that deserve more eyeballs on their work, and offers iconoclastic angles on mega moments in pop culture. Past episodes have celebrated crucial undersung '00s artists like Christina Milian and Fefe Dobson, explained the rise of instant icon Ice Spice, and shared fascinating perspectives on Janet Jackson's Super Bowl scandal and Chris Brown's patchy reputation. It's good shit, u should subscribe.

Without further ado, let's learn more about Jasmine as The Music Enjoyer...

What music did you listen to when you were a kid?

My first favorite song was Whitney Houston's "I'm Your Baby Tonight” and it’s still in my highest echelon.

Generally, though, when I think of my pre-adolescent childhood, my relationship to music was passive, especially relative to my interest in books and TV. My dad listened to the R&B radio station so I was familiar with the contemporary black artists like Toni Braxton, Jodeci, Brandy, TLC, and Tony! Toni! Toné! (still waiting for anyone to drop a song better than “Anniversary”).

I didn’t start to actively engage with music or develop my own preferences until middle school. I had moved from a pretty diverse school to a very white school and quickly realized I did not know many of the cultural references. In sixth grade, I made friends with one of the few other black girls and she guided me into the world of pop (i.e., white/white friendly) and MTV. My first step was listening to the radio for hours at a time, trying to pick out my favorite songs, and then waiting for them to come on again so I could record them onto a blank cassette tape. Robyn’s “Do You Know (What It Takes)” and “Never Ever” by All Saints were early standouts.

"the alphabet runs right from A to Zed" lives in my head rent-free

TRL was a revelation. Seeing the white boy bands, the blondes, Destiny’s Child, Lauryn Hill, blink-182, Limp Bizkit, Snoop Dogg, DMX, et al., being put forth as artists you should be listening to was incredibly formative for my impressionable brain.

The cynical take on TRL is that every song/video that made it onto the countdown was fundamentally the same in that they were all manufactured for maximum exposure and commercial appeal. To which I say: a) welcome to capitalism, baby and b) these artists served as critical entry points to and ambassadors for their respective genres. 

What music did you listen to when you were a teenager?

I never had a “too cool for pop music” phase because I am not too cool for literally anything. I was listening to Britney, Christina, Mariah, Alicia Keys, Ashanti, Michelle Branch, and Vanessa Carlton.

Aaliyah’s final album was pretty much a religious artifact for me.

I started listening to Sade in a futile attempt to access some vestige of her grace and sophistication.

I found a lot of comfort in R&B in high school. When I think about that time in my life, I think of self-doubt layered with suffocating racialized anxiety. Women like Amerie, Vivian Green, Floetry, Faith Evans, and India.Arie were really edifying. In them, I saw an expression of black womanhood that didn’t rely on mass approval from the white gaze. They were successful without having to compete for space in a “pop” marketplace that only rewarded a specific aesthetic and point of view from black artists.

By the end of high school, I was fully in my LiveJournal era, and I was joining file sharing communities. LiveJournal introduced me to the sad white singer-songwriter economy that included Rilo Kiley, Imogen Heap, Death Cab for Cutie, and all things related to Andrew McMahon, as well as the emo bands du jour like Fall Out Boy and Taking Back Sunday. 

How has your music taste developed since then?

 I struggled with this question because when a lot of people reflect on their music journey, they talk about how they went from pop music to alternative 1960s Japanese jazz specifically from Kurashiki. When I think about the music I listen to today, it still broadly echoes what I listened to as a teenager—R&B, pop, and sad singer-songwriters, preferably women—but now it’s from a wider range of subgenres and regions. That said, I’ll give anything a listen at least once, but I still gravitate toward strong melodies and evocative lyrics. The other thing I’d say has changed is a greater reverence and interest in those who laid the blueprint for contemporary music. Like right now, I’m making my way through Ella Fitzgerald’s whole discography, which is bringing me immense joy.  

What is your favorite way to listen to music? (i.e. speakers, headphones, digital vs analog, etc.).

I listen to music through headphones on my phone or laptop most of the time. Clearly, I don’t prioritize getting an optimal listening experience. Though at this point, most producers and engineers are aware of the trash conditions their projects are being consumed in and have adjusted accordingly. What I do have a preference for is location and season. I love laying down and listening to music in bed (or on rare occasions, in a hammock or on the beach).

Also, so many songs/artists have times of year where they truly shine. Janelle Monáe is spring, Lana Del Rey is summer, Rachel Chinouriri is autumn, and Cleo Sol is winter. 


Where do you find new (or new to you) music?

Spotify playlists and social media. I love playlists as a survey of a time or a moment. I basically use playlists as a radio station. I toggle between the playlists curated by Spotify and user-generated ones. Obviously, you can’t talk about playlists without recognizing Matthew Perpetua’s genius work. As for social media, Reddit works for me because recommendations from anonymous randos who just want to share their favorite tunes are really powerful. My Twitter timeline can also be a treasure trove because I’ve been wrangling with that algorithm for 15 years and it’s heavily oriented toward pop culture and music nerds. 

Jasmine rules. Thank you Jasmine. I (politely) demand you listen to Black Bubblegum. And thanks as always for reading I Enjoy Music. If you like it, tell a friend aboot it.