Zhanel (pronounced Ja-nel) hails from a musically-inclined family. Her father is a guitarist and her grandfather – a well-known trumpeter – played alongside Ray Charles and Count Basie. When she started singing at age four, the men in her life were right there, playing alongside her. Now sixteen, Zhanel’s songwriting draws inspiration from life and all its lessons. Two years ago, she lost her aunt and later ended a close friendship. She was able to get through these hard times by putting pen to paper.
She found writing to be therapeutic, and went on to compose a number of original songs. Some of which will feature on her still to be named EP. In the meantime she has released a series of singles, one of which is “Guidance” and “Guidance II” – an evolution of the first version which detail’s the loss of an aunt of one of Zhanel’s friends.
This is the single for fans who will love Zhanel in the throes of her own musical freedom. “Guidance” and “Guidance II” are among her best pieces – haunting melodies and minimal, perfect accompaniment, just enough to show off Zhanel’s beautiful voice and intriguing lyrics.
Some strokes of the piano, and a gorgeous use of vocals and strings make sure nothing hinders the raw emotion of these songs. She delivers the goods. In only 2 songs – which in reality is only one song in two different versions – she does things with her voice and music that artists can’t attain in an hour’s worth of music.
If there’s one thing anyone should know about Zhanel, it’s that, her voice is extremely nuanced for her age. It’s warm and embracing earworm quality catches your attention from the opening bars and carries strong through the entire song.
“Guidance II” is a powerful cry for help and inner strength at a time of loss: “Stuck in the middle. Fighting the truth. I’m still here without you. Don’t know what to do.” The song pulls at the heartstrings, as the narrator is learning to let go of the past and having to embrace a new reality.
It’s the letting go of the person that she can’t quite bring herself to do. The fear of what’s already changed is the denial of the reality. “This doesn’t feel real, please resuscitate. I know this ain’t real, this is just a game. The paramedics are on their way.”
So brilliantly sung, those lines represents something that so many people can relate to when it comes to that feeling of having to let something go, but trying to hold on simultaneously. Zhanel uses language, smartly written, where her words lets us tap into what loss can make a person feel.
Zhanel really shows off her vocal abilities in a form that is so pure and raw it literally gave me chills the first time I listened to it. This is a young artist who clearly does this for the music, as it shows in the way she writes, plays and performs. If you let this one slip by you’ll be missing out on one of the most eloquent new female voices of the year.