Imagine wandering into a nightclub somewhere on the outskirts of time. A classic jukebox in the corner plays timeless music with oddly familiar modern lyrics, incongruously marrying the 21st-century party vibe of Miley Cyrus or the minimalist angst of Radiohead with the crackly warmth of a vintage 78 or the plunger-muted barrelhouse howl of a forgotten Kansas City jazzman. The dance floor is full of revelers twerking in poodle skirts, while at the bar, well-heeled hipsters balance a martini in one hand with a smartphone in the other.
If such a place actually exists, no doubt the soundtrack is Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox. Founded by pianist and arranger Scott Bradlee in 2009, the ensemble reimagines contemporary pop, rock and R&B hits in the style of various yesteryears, from swing to doo-wop, ragtime to Motown – or, as Bradlee himself puts it, "pop music in a time machine." The Essentials collects 18 favorites from Postmodern Jukebox's popular weekly YouTube postings. Both the songs and the styles span decades – it just happens that the decades in question are separated by about half a century.
Bradlee's choice of material ranges from the '80s hard rock of Guns N' Roses to hits as recent as last year's Justin Bieber plea "Sorry." They're rendered by a rotating cast of musicians and singers in fashions that date back to a time when Axl, Slash and Bieber's parents had yet to be born – a time of street corner harmonies and torch singers, blues belters and golden-voiced crooners.
Maroon 5's "Maps" flashes forward a couple of decades for a horn-laden '70s soul sound featuring the powerhouse voice of Morgan James, while American Idol alum Haley Reinhart wrings the emotion from Radiohead's breakthrough hit "Creep" as a torch singer worthy of Julie London. And while Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" referred to the singer's curves, Kate Davis takes it to another level with a smoking upright bass performance to augment a coy vocal redolent of Billie Holiday.
Heavy metal and New Orleans jazz may seem to have little in common, but Bradlee finds the thread connecting the two, rendering both "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses and the Darkness' "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" as gutbucket Bourbon Street blues numbers featuring the stirring voices of Maiya Sykes and Miche Braden. Mykal Kilgore, meanwhile, rescues "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic schmaltz to Jackie Wilson-style R&B.
- We Can't Stop starring Robyn Adele Anderson & The Tee Tones
- Maps starring Morgan James
- Creep starring Haley Reinhart
- All About That Bass starring Kate Davis
- No Diggity starring Ariana Savalas
- I Believe in a Thing Called Love starring Maiya Sykes
- My Heart Will Go On starring Mykal Kilgore
- Royals starring Puddles Pity Party
- Stacy's Mom starring Casey Abrams
- Rude starring Von Smith
- Sweet Child O'Mine starring Miche Braden
- Thrift Shop starring Robyn Adele Anderson
- Burn starring Cristina Gatti, Robyn Adele Anderson and Ashley Stroud
- Seven Nation Army starring Haley Reinhart
- Sorry starring Shoshana Bean
- Halo starring LaVance Colley
- Hey Ya! starring Sara Niemietz
- Such Great Heights starring Kiah Victoria