Christian Berishaj, better known as JMSN, has been giving listeners an all access look into his life since his 2012 debut album Priscilla. Fast forward 4 years later, after a few issues with labels which in turn caused him to create White Room Records, the Michigan singer is back to update fans on his life journey with his 3rd album It Is. This album is an array of styles including blues, soul, funk and jazz. The PBR&B singer also draws inspiration some of the greats including neo soul artist D’Angelo and the late Prince. Like Prince, Christian has some growing frustrations within his own life which stem from being successful in the music industry. This 13 track album serves as an microscopic look inside the mind of a troubled artist who wants be successful yet hold on to the things he cares about the most.
The album starts off as an open book with the title track It Is, where in the opening seconds one can begin to hear the chilling sounds of a ghost-like figure drifting in and out of the background paired with sounds of faint sirens or quite possibly another soul at unrest syncing together creating an otherworld duet. The haunting sounds of an old fiddle kick in followed up with a beautiful arrangement of piano keys. As a movie scene seems to take shape, JMSN steps into the spotlight with the first words from his dialogue being, “There’s just something about the way, I could die for love and be satisfied”. A rare thing for most to say, but clearly something JMSN isn’t afraid to get off of his chest, similar to an Romeo Montague profession of his love for Juliet. Already knowing the consequences JMSN has determined that he’d dedicate and sacrifice whatever it takes because of his undying love. He later goes on to ask, “what do you want from me?” which makes it seem as if whoever he’s singing to still isn’t satisfied by the effort he’s put forth thus far. Realizing that he can no longer live in the past JMSN comes to terms with everything singing that he has to carry on. If you’ve followed Christian’s personal life since Priscilla the more one listens to this track it starts to seem as if this song isn’t geared towards a woman, but actually towards his love of music and the obstacles he’s faced being in the music industry to date.
The subject matter changes as the second track Power comes on which is a multi-layered funk tune reminiscent of 90’s Acid Jazz band Jamiroquai. JMSN channels his inner Jay Kay and sings a more uplifting message aimed to let the listener know that they have the power to change things in their life for the better despite the problems they face. JMSN even adds a touch of gospel as well getting help with background vocals from what sounds like a church choir as he continuously sings “you got the power”. Fuck U struts a neo soul driven core with funky guitar riffs similar to Adrian Younge‘s Something About April while yet keeping the silky voice right in the center for a perfect balance. JMSN’s influence of blues is evident in his lyrics as he spews out his frustrations with people in today’s society and how everyone feels as if they’re the only one with problems. “My world is so sideways, just wish things would go my way”, JMSN cries out. Let’s be honest we’ve all been at that point one time or another in our lives, but there comes a point where you realize that you have to keep pushing forward and deal with your issues because things could always be worse. In the words of JMSN, “so tell me what you gonna do?”.
Keeping the funk theme going,Cruel Intentions continues to show the vulnerable side of Christian. As the horns blow and the guitar strums JMSN confesses that at the end of the day he just wants some attention. Admitting to his fair share of mistakes , he’s not shying away from he fact that he has flaws, but yet wants to more so focus on the fact he wants to make things right and start anew. I feel this track shows off the range in his voice that he usually doesn’t showcase which was refreshing. Good Ol’ Case of the Blues serves as a part 2 to Cruel Intentions, the difference is JMSN chooses to recite lyrics spoken word style about d’evils of the music industry. From opportunist friends to referring to recording artists as drug mules, he drops various jewels while shedding light on the reality of which is often unspoken. Funk Outta Here brings a vibrant New Orleans Jazz vibe as if he’s performing under red lights in a hot intimate club backed up by a live band. At times throughout the song JMSN’s vocals remind me of both Raphael Saadiq and Mint Condition‘s lead singer Stokley Williams. Clever enough once this track wraps up you start to hear applause from a crowd & realize that this was in fact a live performance because the Juice Interlude will be a minute-long conversation between JMSN and a stereotypical obnoxious record executive who attempts to wow the singer with big time producers and big money. As the conversation continues and the record exec throws jabs at JMSN’s credentials and his home state Michigan, JMSN grows quite uncomfortable and rushes to get back to the stage and get back to thing he loves the most, his music.
Alongside Arima Ederra the two perform Hypnotized which is a reggae infused track with a twist of R&B. This track shows yet another dimension of JMSN and the diverse list of influences he draws from and adds his twist to.The album takes a step away from the Funk-based tracks starting with Fantasize. The mystic sounding production recreates a dreamy instrumental while Jamaican-born, London-based singer Denai Moore‘s airy voice sings . With a chilling sound to her voice, Denai executes her part then fades back out as if she just descended from above to lend Christian a hand leaving him to close out the track with a few echoing harmonies. JMSN takes the driver seat back with Most of All which he reverts to his R&B style showcasing his vulnerability. The 29 year old isn’t afraid to rattle off the list of things that he misses about a particular someone, “I miss you lips, I miss your hips, I miss your touch”. It seems as if things still haven’t gotten any easier for the Michigan singer when it comes to balancing work life and personal life. Trying to accomplish your own set of goals as well as maintaning a healthy relationship can become quite the juggling act and JMSN is just one of many that fall short. This has been documented for quite some time throughout Christian’s catalog of music and is usually the focal point of most songs. Aware of this JMSN pens Be a Man Part 1 & 2 in which he holds the mirror up himself saying how he has to be a man and step up. At the end of Be a Man Part 2 JMSN admits that the whole album he’s actually been talking to himself and the various voices were subconscious thoughts that would be inside of his head. Possessed rounds off the album and ties everything together where Christian feels as if he’s actually possessed by the demons that keep haunting him and how his life will ultimately be a sacrifice.
We’ve seen a few artist as of late disgusted by the industry and the things that come along with fame. Artists like J.Cole and Childish Gambino haven’t shied away at letting people know how they feel by using their music as their outlet, seems as if we can add JMSN to that list. There are a few tracks that come off as lighthearted, but overall there is a familiar darker tone throughout which fans come to expect from the singer. Filled with various messages through the album it seems as if It Is serves as a guide on how not to be like Christian and to learn from his mistakes. This album will make you have second thoughts if you’re an aspiring artist trying to break into the industry, but in a good way. If you’re gonna pursue something it’s always best to know the pros and cons before jumping in heads first. It Is can be declared a gloomy album that you can only play when you’re in your feelings, but it’s so much more then that. With Beyonce’ receiving major praise for her tell all album Lemonade it’s easy to overlook the fact that she’s not the first musician to give an up close and personal look at various issues in the form of an album. In fact, this has been an ongoing trend for the past few years with the introduction of artists like The Weeknd, James Blake, Frank Ocean, as well as JMSN. So before you write this album off as just another artist crying about problems that most would kill to have, applaud Christian’s courage to be able to continue to show a side of himself that a majority of artists usually try to hide.
JMSN once again turned pain into beauty with 3rd album9
Production score 9
Lyrics score 9
Composition score 9