Jamiroquai performing at the O2 in London (2017)
|Past members||See former members|
Jamiroquai (// ( listen)) are a British jazz-funk band from London, formed in 1992. Fronted by singer-songwriter Jay Kay, the band's best-known line-up was additionally composed of co-songwriter Toby Smith (keyboard), Stuart Zender (bass), Derrick McKenzie (drums) and Wallis Buchanan (vibraphone/didgeridoo). The group has changed its line-up several times; with McKenzie and Sola Akingbola (percussion), who both joined in 1994, still in the official line-up. They débuted as an acid-jazz band and have since explored other musical directions such as pop, rock, disco and electronica.
The group rose to international fame in the 1990s as one of the most prominent components in the London-based funk/acid jazz movement. Their 1996 album Travelling Without Moving, had entered the Guinness World Records as the best-selling funk album in history. Jamiroquai has thus sold more than 26 million albums worldwide. Front-man Kay won a BMI Presidents Award, "in recognition of his profound influence on songwriting within the music industry;" and with the band, also won an Ivor Novello Award for "[an] Outstanding Song Collection", as well as 13 Brit Award nominations during the course of their career.
After a failed audition to become a singer of the Brand New Heavies, songwriter Jason "Jay" Kay formed Jamiroquai alongside co-songwriter and keyboardist Toby Smith, Stuart Zender on bass guitar, didgeridoo player Wallis Buchanan and drummer Nick van Gelder, who left shortly after the group's first album. Being the front-man, Kay is occasionally referred to as 'Jamiroquai', due to misconception by some that the band is a solo artist.
Kay's home demos were noticed by Acid Jazz Records, and under that label, Jamiroquai's first single "When You Gonna Learn", was released in 1992. Following its success, the group were offered multiple major-label contracts and settled for a US$1 million record deal with Sony Soho2. Emergency on Planet Earth, was released in 1993 and reached the UK albums chart at number 1. The album's second single, "Too Young to Die" entered the UK singles chart at number 10.
The Return of the Space Cowboy followed in 1994. The single "Space Cowboy", is the group's first number 1 in the US Dance Chart; while "Stillness in Time" was another UK top ten hit, peaking at number 9. The non single tracks "Manifest Destiny" and "Morning Glory" were sampled by 2Pac and Missy Elliot respectively.
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With Jamiroquai growing in popularity in Europe and Japan, their American breakthrough came with the 1996 album, Travelling Without Moving. It reached number 24 in the US Billboard 200, and number 2 in the UK albums chart. The album yielded two big hits: "Virtual Insanity" and "Cosmic Girl". The success of the former song was due in part of its music video and remains a popular track. It sold 356,000 copies and is streamed 4.5 million times as of 2014. The song was also number 1 in Italy. "Cosmic Girl" peaked at number 6 in the UK and remained in the position for 12 weeks. The single "Alright" charted in the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 78 and is the group's only song to appear in that chart.
A 1998 single titled, "Deeper Underground" was issued and was listed in the Godzilla soundtrack. "Canned Heat" (1999) was their second number 1 in the U.S. Dance Chart, and was also included in the soundtrack for the 2004 cult film Napoleon Dynamite. Their fourth studio album, Synkronized was released in 1999. Bassist Stuart Zender left Jamiroquai during the production of the album, and was replaced by Nick Fyffe to record new sessions. Synkronized, which sold 3 million copies, did not meet the sales of Travelling Without Moving, with 8 million copies sold. The album fared even less in the US due to non-music press coverage, including Kay assaulting a tabloid photographer.
The group issued their 2001 follow-up, A Funk Odyssey. Both the album and its single "Little L" were in Top 100 charts worldwide. Guitarist Rob Harris joined the group and contributed to the album's songwriting, such as "Corner of the Earth". Songwriter and keyboardist Toby Smith left the band in 2002.
The band's 2005 single, "Feels Just Like It Should", received a Grammy nomination for Best Short Form Music Video. Their sixth album titled Dynamite, was later released. It was recorded in various locations, including their studio in Buckinghamshire, and reached number 3 on the UK chart. The track, "Seven Days in Sunny June" is featured in the soundtrack for The Devil Wears Prada. Since the release of Dynamite, the group's line-up has consisted of Kay, Harris, drummer Derrick McKenzie, keyboardist Matt Johnson, Paul Turner on bass guitar, and percussionist Sola Akingbola.
In March 2006, Jamiroquai announced their switch to Columbia Records. A greatest hits collection, High Times: Singles 1992–2006, was issued in November and marked the end of Kay's contract with Sony. It topped the UK album chart after its first week of release, and is certified triple platinum by the BPI. With the compilation being issued out of contractual obligation, Kay stated that he considered retirement from his music career after leaving Sony. In 2007, Jamiroquai performed in the Gig in the Sky, a concert held on a private Boeing 757 in association with Sony Ericsson. The group thus currently holds the Guinness World Record for "fastest concert", performed on the aircraft whilst travelling at 1017 km/h (632 mph). They formerly held the record for the "highest concert", performed on a Virgin Australia aircraft. The group appeared in season one of Live from Abbey Road.
Rock Dust Light Star was released in 2010 under Mercury Records. In the same year, the band worked with Julian Perretta and produced his début album Stitch Me Up. Jamiroquai also uploaded a 2011 track called "Smile" for free download via their SoundCloud page. In 2013, the group's first three albums were reissued and remastered.
On 16 January 2017, Jamiroquai released an online short teaser video for their eighth and first studio album in seven years, Automaton, scheduled for a March release. In the following week, the album's eponymous single was issued, followed up by "Cloud 9" in February. Although not released as a single, "Shake it On" broke into the Official French Singles Chart, peaking at number 154. In May, Kay seriously injured his spine, requiring surgery; it led to cancellation of shows in Tokyo and London for their Automaton Tour, which were rescheduled in September and December respectively.
In January 2018, a song titled, "Now We Are Alone", originally an out-take from Automaton was made available for streaming via the band's official YouTube page, and is the first in a series of upcoming bonus tracks.
Jamiroquai were initially the most prominent component in the London-based funk/acid jazz movement, alongside groups such as Incognito, the James Taylor Quartet, and the Brand New Heavies. Their music is described by journalist Greg Prato as a "blend of house rhythms and '70s-era soul/funk" which has led to comparisons with Stevie Wonder, including Kay's vocals. He however said that Wonder was not an influence. A 2003 compilation titled Late Night Tales: Jamiroquai under Azuli Records, contains a selection of the band's soul, funk and disco influences; including tracks from The Pointer Sisters, The Commodores, and Johnny "Hammond" Smith. Emergency on Planet Earth (1993) "laid the foundations for an acid-jazz sound that the band would continue to build upon for the next decade and a half". The 1996 single, "Cosmic Girl" showcased the band's increasing disco influence into their later work. Their 2005 album Dynamite, saw the group exploring electronic music. Automaton, produced by Kay and member Matt Johnson, "carefully balance[s] their signature sound" with EDM and trap music, according to an Exclaim! review. Jamiroquai's "classic era", as described by writer B. Getz, had Kay's vocals and songwriting paired with Toby Smith co-writing songs and playing on a Rhodes piano, Stuart Zender's bass playing, the percussion works of Derrick McKenzie and Sola Akingbola, and Wallis Buchanan with his didgeridoo—which was at the time, "a calling card for the band’s unmistakable sound." The writer argued that Zender's departure changed the group's sound, as the band had begun to foray into electronic approaches. Jamiroquai has a preference for performing live over recording studio albums, as Kay finds it "a bit stiff in comparison." A Rolling Stone review of The Return of The Space Cowboy commented that the group's "live spark glows."
Jamiroquai's lyrical themes occasionally discuss Kay's concerns such as homelessness and Native American rights. In particular, the band's name is an interlock of the words, "jam" and "iroquai". The latter is based on the Iroquois, a Native American confederacy whose "spiritual reverence for the earth" provided inspiration for the band's lyrics. The song "Manifest Destiny" touches on slavery. Termed as a "white guilt" song, Kay said, "When you learn how [cruel] history has been to some people[...] you get a perspective on why the world is like it is." The song "Dr. Buzz" is about racism and gun violence, and "Nights Out in the Jungle" references Kay's past struggles with drug addiction. "Automaton" recognises "the rise of artificial intelligence and technology..." When Travelling Without Moving was released, Kay became interested in sports cars. He was under wide media scrutiny as the group's earlier lyrics contained themes of environmental concern. He eventually responded, "[People] keep talking to me about cars and environment, and I reckon I do about 3,000 miles a year." with an additional statement that he "[doesn't] really drive that much at all any more, because I'm either on tour or doing stuff." The same album was described by Vibe as having a lighter sound, as Kay stated that he was tired of being a "troubadour of social conscience", and in a 1999 interview, he added that "after a while you realise that people won't boogie and dance to [politics]."
Kay stated that the group's visual aesthetics are important. He assumes creative control over the group's music videos, such as editing, performing his own stunts and ensuring that they "[look] good after 10-15 years". Called "icons of the music-video format" by The Atlantic, the group are known for their music video of "Virtual Insanity", directed by Jonathan Glazer. In the video, Kay: "performed in a room where the floors, walls and furniture all moved simultaneously." Jamiroquai are also noted for Kay's array of elaborate headgear, prompting descriptions of Kay as "the mad hatter" and the "cat-in-the-hat". In a 1993 interview with Melody Maker, he said that wearing headgear gives him a spiritual power that the Iroquois called "orenda" and if "[the audience] isn't really going for it, I'll tug the hat down and come on all militant." Additionally, Kay has worn indigenous themed headgear, which was met with criticism from the Indian Country Media Network, commenting that he had worn sacred regalia of the First Nations.
|2017||Jay Kay||BMI Presidents Award||Won|
|1994||Themselves||Best British Breakthrough||Nominated|
|Best British Group||Nominated|
|Best British Dance Act||Nominated|
|Emergency on Planet Earth||MasterCard British Album||Nominated|
|1995||"Space Cowboy"||Best British Video||Nominated|
|Themselves||Best British Dance Act||Nominated|
|"Deeper Underground"||Best British Video||Nominated|
|2000||Themselves||Best British Dance Act||Nominated|
|2002||Best British Group||Nominated|
|2003||Best British Dance Act||Nominated|
|1997||"Virtual Insanity"||Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal||Won|
|Travelling Without Moving||Best Pop Album||Nominated|
|2005||Feels Just Like It Should||Best Short Form Music Video||Nominated|
International Dance Music Award
|2007||"Runaway"||Best Breaks / Electro Track||Nominated|
Ivor Novello Award
|1999||Themselves||Outstanding Song Collection||Won|
|1997||Travelling Without Moving||Best Album||Won|
MTV Video Music Awards (with an additional two wins and four nominations for staff)
|1997||Themselves||Best New Artist||Nominated|
|Virtual Insanity||Video of the Year||Won|
|Best Choreography (Choreographers: Jason Kay)||Nominated|
|International Viewer's Choice Award for MTV Europe||Nominated|
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