Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Garden State Represented, but Distinct Jersey Sound Seems to Be Lacking

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Garden State Represented, but Distinct Jersey Sound Seems to Be Lacking

Article excerpt

Jersey in the house.

The house being the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where three Bergen County musicians -- Jack Antonoff of New Milford and Woodcliff Lake (of the band fun.) and Wesley Schultz and Jeremiah Fraites of Ramsey (The Lumineers) -- will be vying for the best new artist award at the 55th annual Grammys tonight.

Whichever band wins -- or even if neither does -- the mere nomination is another notch in Jersey's belt.

"It's great that New Jersey is making this much of a contribution to the Grammys," says Claudia Ocello, who curated the "Jersey Rocks: A History of Rock & Roll

in the Garden State" exhibit at the Morris Museum in Morristown in 2011.

But Jersey, some would argue, isn't just a place on the map; it's also an attitude, a state of mind, even a sound.

Jersey sound?

The scrappy working-class outlook, the racial mix, the sandwiching between the major music centers of New York and Philadelphia -- all those things, it's been suggested, gave Jersey a unique rock-and-roll voice.

Musically, it could be heard in the soul-influenced vocals of Bruce Springsteen (Freehold), the Stax-flavored horns of Southside Johnny (Neptune), the tight Four Seasons (Newark) harmonies derived from the street-corner singing of Brooklyn and Philly. It could also be heard, to varying degrees, in the music of the Shirelles (Passaic), Bon Jovi (Perth Amboy), Queen Latifah (Newark), Deborah Harry (Hawthorne) and The Smithereens (Carteret).

Can any of this New Jersey DNA be detected in fun. and The Lumineers? Doubtful, says Andy Greene, associate editor of Rolling Stone.

"I don't hear much that screams New Jersey to me," Greene says. "I think those regional types of sounds are heard less and less these days. It's not like back in the day, when there were particular sounds that were popular in an area. …

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