Sarah Jaffe is set to embark on the next chapter of a career a decade in the making with her 2017 release Bad Baby. An exercise in collaboration and artistic confrontation, Bad Baby’s origin story is rooted in willed, hard won conception. Bad Baby took time and it took work, like all good things.
“The period of time leading up to this album was a pretty dark one where I was creatively complacent and a time I wasn’t moving forward until I got, truly, the most impactful advice I’ve ever received,” Jaffe recounts from her home in Dallas, Texas. “The gist was basically — ‘You’re not 19 anymore and songs aren’t just going to come to you. There’s no muse, it’s work’ — I knew this already, but I suppose I was ready to hear it because a light bulb went off.”
“I didn’t have any inspiration because I was just waiting for it, which was kind of bullshit,” Jaffe deadpans.
This isn’t to say there weren’t plenty of moments of muse. Behind the mic on Jimmy Kimmel Live! or supporting such celebrated artists as Cyndi Lauper, Norah Jones, Chelsea Wolfe, Midlake and Metric; on international stages and in front of faithful Texas crowds — Jaffe would start to make the connections that bring us to her most recent evolution.
An important point of connection and a clear line to the venturesome tone of Bad Baby leads directly to Jaffe’s collaborative project The Dividends. The Dividends, the pairing of Jaffe with S1, a Grammy Award-winning producer known for his work with Jay Z, Beyoncé and Kanye West, saw her stepping outside of her comfort zone to satisfying new ends. Describing their meeting Jaffe recalls, “We bonded immediately. I met S1 while working with Erykah Badu's band The Cannabinoids on a remix. He asked me if I wanted to write some hip hop hooks together and Eminem ended up picking up one of our tracks six months later.”
“I had written for other artists before but that experience was really solidifying and I think the influence leaked into my own writing.” The bug for collaboration didn’t stop there and Jaffe has also gone on to score film projects with Pixar and Oculus.
When it came time to put the focus on her own work, Jaffe turned to an inner circle of musicians who helped shape what was forming and lend their influence and perspective. Produced by Matt Pence with co-producing credits from Jaffe and Scott Soller (Okkervil River, The Mountain Goats, John Vanderslice), the songs on Bad Baby reflect the range of influences Jaffe has been drawing from of late, condensing them into her smartest and most effervescent output so far.
“Synthetic Love,” defines a tone for what will clearly be a personal journey — lyrically vulnerable and sonically complex — the album begins with a love letter to the art and the artist and a permission slip leading us to the more surprising places the album may travel. In the album’s title track “Bad Baby,” our protagonist finds a catchy way to stand her ground in the metaphor, a recurring theme in an album that asks as many questions as it answers.
Jaffe’s wit and philosophical leanings intersect in a bright final moment transitioning from “Manifestations” to “Shit Show” — apt, since Jaffe has built a world that relies on subverting expectation.