PopCrush Presents: Brenna Whitaker
Every week at PopCrush, we’re putting the spotlight on one up-and-coming act you need to know about. Why? So you can get on board early before everyone else and their mother jumps on the bandwagon…and so you can be that one friend in the group who’s always like, “Um, actually, I prefer their earlier work.”
With her soulful, full-bodied vocals and jazz-leaning pop sound, Kansas City-born vocalist Brenna Whitaker recalls the kind of old-school warmth of the great blues legends to come before her -- and she just so happens to cite them as her most overt inspiration.
"Ruth Brown, Peggy Lee, Cab Calloway, Etta James - those are my people," she offers via her official website. "I don't even know how I ended up knowing so many of their songs and standards from back then. It's almost like they found their way to me, like I'm from another time."
An expert melding of old and new, Whitaker's latest single "Love Back" is a mid-tempo pop plea for a return to autonomy following the all-too-relatable deterioration of an all-encompassing relationship. The track acts as something of a sonic thesis for the Los Angeles-based vocalist, making for a fitting introduction for those just coming across her work.
The rest of Whitaker's self-titled debut errs heavier on the side of retro -- a stylistic choice reflected in her previous single, a soulful, jazz-y take on Sam Sparro's "Black and Gold" -- but her rich, warm vocals are the clear and much deserved focal point of each track, earning her some famous fans (Quincy Jones, Stevie Wonder) along the way.
Famed music executive David Foster saw serious potential in Whitaker, too, giving her a significant boost in visibility when he decided to work with her on her debut release -- something Foster hasn't agreed to do since helping develop Michael Buble years ago.
"Brenna Whitaker is an amazing, unique, super-interesting artist that I'm proud to work with," he told PEOPLE. "Her self-titled debut, Brenna Whitaker, is not to be missed."
The feeling is clearly mutual. “I’m extremely grateful that I got to make my debut album the old fashioned way with such a masterful director, David Foster," Whitaker told PopCrush. "I feel like the luckiest duck."
Like what you hear? Head over to iTunes to grab a copy of Whitaker's debut album, and check out "Black and Gold" below.