Album Review: Anouk – “Deena & Jim”

On the 3rd of November, 2023, Dutch singer Anouk released her 14th studio album Deena & Jim“. The album comes a year and a half after the albumTrails of Fails.

Who is Anouk?

Anouk is one of the most famous and successful Dutch singers.
Her music spanned between different music genres like: Rock, pop, soul, R&B, alternative and more.
She has been active in the music industry since 1996.
In 2013, she was internally selected to represent The Netherlands at Eurovision 2013.
She performed the emotional ballad “Birds” and ended in the 9th place in the final.

It was the first time The Netherlands qualified for the final, after 8 years of non-qualifying.

Deena & Jim

The album includes 12 songs. Anouk collaborated with the The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Anouk is the lyricist and composer of the songs, alongside her long-year music partner Martin Gjerstad. Among the credits of the album, we can also find: Elias Sahlin, Bart de Ruiter and Tore Johansson.

Anouk commented (via the lyrics of the first song of the album):

 Consider this record as a love letter to those in despair
I just hope with this record
You know, some of my words and music will touch your heart
I hope it encourages people
To maybe turn the tide, you know?
Interrupt a certain cycle
Which needs to be changed
and create a world for them where their love can thrive
You know?
That would be beautiful

Anouk added:

“Time should disappear when you listen to it. The whole record is super relatable; the things I sing about, I also see happening in relationships around me. It teaches you not to take anything for granted. I think a lot of people can take hope from this record. Because you can always attack what bothers you. And you shouldn’t wait too long to do that”

Album Review

I will review some of the songs in the album

#1. From The Bottom To The Top

The song opens with an instrumental string section, which adds a cinematic dimension. Anouk starts singing with a deep voice, as we can hear percussion elements added to the melody. The song opens with the chorus. Thereafter, we get a short instrumental part. The first chorus is performed in a laid back low tone of singing, and the atmosphere is darker. The chorus converges into a jazzy outcry.
Another chorus comes, and the second chorus is softer.
The last part is a recorded spoken word that delivers a message to the listeners:
Anouk addresses someone named Deena and Jim, as a symbol to people in despair. Her songs are love letters to those in despair, they encourage them to go out of negative loops and step forward to a world where love is above all.

#2. Are You Done Running?

The song starts with an instrumental part, composed of wind instruments.
The first verse is performed in a high tone of voice. The melody is uniform, while we can still hear the orchestra in the background. The pre-chorus combines more string elements.
The chorus is dreamy and soft, she opens it with a falsetto singing and then moves to a powerful singing.
This song is somehow a combination of a broken-hearted song, Disney fairytale and classic music.
The poem deals with a spokersperson who tries to run away from her fate. She prefers to sink into fairytales, closing her eyes to the real world. Even when being surrounded by people, she still feels lonely.
“Are you done running?” is a self-question, somehow critical, and it tells the secret behind this endless loop: Running away from problems and ignoring them will make us feel miserable at the of the day.

#3. Damage Done

If I have to mention the most “James Bond” related song in the album, I will pick “Damage Done”.
The song opens with an elegant string of instruments and piano playing.
The song begins with quite a dramatic statement – “Rivers started flowing/ The sky was turning black/ Your seasons changes”.
She opens with mid-fast singing and a low pitch of voice, alongside a heart-warming interpretation. The chorus is faster, flavored with mystery. Anouk shows off her vocal abilities, with fragile singing that demonstrates the pain of the spokesperson.
Viola closes the impressive chorus, framing the whole story.
In the second verse, the lyrics reach an irresistible level of pain: The damage caused by her former partner: “Stepping on their hearts, crushing their homes”.
The second chorus is more intense, and the message is delivered clearly.
The last part of the song is a typical praised piece by Anouk, where from the highest peak we get the most fragile singing, just like in the immortal “Make it Rain
Anouk conveys soul music between the beautiful chords of the orchestra arrangement.

#4. Deena and Jim

The song opens differently compared to the former songs.
The intro evolves into semi-electronic beats that merge into xselophone play.
Thereafter we can hear orchestral elements and pre-recorded spoken word parts.
This is a personal song, but the message is global: Those who find themselves desperate.
The song is dedicated to 2 individuals rolling out a story where each one of us might find ourselves.
The first verse walks us slowly through Anouk’s voice.
The symphonic chorus spans a sad story with an end point: Without self destruction, we will be free.
The second verse of the song has a more modern production, obtained by electronic keyboards. The second part of the chorus is warmer, as the message gives a room for hope.
The song is finalized in the spoken word part.

#6. When I Die

For this song, we can also enjoy the live performance:

The audio version opens with a spoken word part that sounds like a summary of a biography of the singer that’s presented at a funeral.
The melody is based on violin, piano and cello playing.
The first verse is quite slow, the emphasis is on deep string elements. Anouk sings the first notes with considerably low tone of voice.
Thereafter, the notes are longer, and the song transitions into more soul direction.
The chorus is grandiose and epix, featuring long notes and wind instruments.
The second verse starts calmly, but then again we go bigger and the level of excitement is high. The bridge builds up with gentle piano playing.
The song summaries the life of a person. The spokesperson asked those who attended her funeral to stop crying. She leaves for a better place and has enough of this world.

You can listen to the audio version (with the long introduction)

#8. If Only

The song opens with a sad introduction, composed of cello playing.
Thereafter, additional wind and string elements are added.
The first verse is performed with a special phrasing of the words. The melody of this part is quite constant. In the chorus, the melody is richer, and based on a “more dramatic” orchestra elements, and that’s where Anouk uses her deep voice that is finalised with soul elements.
The second verse repeats the structure of the first one.
The last part of the song is more blues oriented, Anouk tore our hearts apart, stating “sometimes, it is a terrible place”.
The song talks about the internal struggles and emotional turmoil the spokeperson went through. The song describes emotions like despair, unbelonging and loneliness, while being misunderstood by the people around you. The spokesperson longed for someone to understand her.

#9. Old Broken Ride

The melody is based on a rich instrumental range.
The introduction and the first verse is based on harp playing, as well as keyboard playing and a gentle beat. The interpretation suggests a warm and warping voice.
Wind instruments are added in the second half of the first verse.
The chorus is more hymnish, the melody is airier, and the framing is cyclic.
The melody changes towards the bridge, as we can enjoy a festive orchestra melody, and this is the point where the song becomes more optimistic.
The song talks about the experience of an adult person who feels like he/she missed the opportunity of his/her life, like a train that passed and will never come back.
Living under the shadow of misopportunity might make you feel like you’re not alive anymore. The spokesperson started to be jealous of the “new roads” which represent the young generation and the life spanned in front of them.
The song might also relate to the feeling of being forgotten or left behind.
The spokesperson feels like her dreams and wishes might be neglected.

#12 One Day At a Time

The song starts with an orchestral intro that’s trsitted into keyboard playing.
The first verse is performed in a considerably higher tone of voice.
As the first verse continues, we can hear some digital keyboard effects.
The chorus is more hymnish, and invites the listeners to sing along.
In the chorus, we also get back more orchestra instruments, mainly string elements.
The bridge is powerful and yet fragile, Anouk sings it with a thick voice. The melody is based on more depth of production. The song ends with the last chorus.
The song discusses the aftermath of a relationship that ended and left a bitter taste.
This relationship broke the spokesperson, making her love herself less than before.
She is stuck in the past and finds comfort in the bed.
The phrase “One Day At a Time” represents the gradual process of healing and coping with realting, and hinting it is challenging.
The song closes the album, and for some reason gives an intimate atmosphere, a very personal piece with a common topic that unites the listeners.

The album has a classical character, obtained by the involvement of the orchestra. The atmosphere is cinematic, sometimes dramatic and yet sophisticated.
Anouk is a faithful artist who creates high quality music, in times where music might be considered an instant product. You can easily see the effort and thinking there were invested in each single note, in each single second.
It’s such an excellent album that will impact the music industry for years.
Anouk keeps on delivering A1 quality music, changing her style from one album to another, but always keeping the soul, the meaningful lyrics and the art.

What do you think about the new album?
Which songs are your favorite ones?

Doron Lahav is 30-year-old, who lives in Israel. Doron has been watching the Eurovision Song Contest since early 2000s. Doron works as a Data Scientist and shows interest in singing and writing.

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