Revisiting the world’s best-selling funk album

Caption: Jay Kay of Jamiroquai gets down in their music video for “Virtual Insanity”

By Gregor Elgee

Remember the 90’s? When everyone knew the moves to the Macarena? When the Box and MTV had an MTV2 superbaby? When more people knew the lyrics to the “Fresh Prince” theme song than their own national anthem? I do. But I can’t be responsible for remembering all the good music. There’s just too much.
Jamiroquai is a perfect example. They’re one of those artists I had to be reintroduced to through the arcane metal box. Thus I was enlightened. Thank you radio. I have now found my new favorite artist.
A combination of disco-soul and acid jazz, Jamiroquai’s slightly euphoric sound doesn’t really fall under a category. While Traveling Without Moving is the greatest selling “funk album” of all time there aren’t many funk bands that sound anything like it. It’s almost as if Jamiroquai is it’s own genre – Jamiroquai music.
You may be asking, “Wow, greatest selling funk album of all time?” you’ll understand when you start dancing to it. You won’t fully appreciate the album until you do. In your car, in your house, in your grandma’s house (grandma will love it), in the shower, in your PJs. You’ll need to be somewhere where you can let it all out. At a wedding with a few drinks in you is ideal.
While you could go home and Spotify the whole album to see what I’m talking about, you’d be missing out on half the fun. Get a laptop, youtube the track listing and watch these three music videos: Virtual Insanity, Alright, Cosmic Girl.
The opening sequence of Alright should entice you (the costume designers of the Matrix must have been taking notes). The video is fun, cool, and to the point: it’s choreographed to make you boogie woogie.
Since you’re youtubing and reading the Ebbtide simultaneously you also probably noticed that one other little detail: Jay Kay’s incredible voice. You may have thought he was lip syncing over someone else. You might have even thought you were listening to a woman. Surprise! It’s a dapper-ass man with dance moves like Christopher Walken!
“Alright” really allows Jay Kay to impress, for the track starts out calm and then warmly smashes into a bumpin’ mid-tempo jam. Jay Kay’s incredible voice transforms the honest and simple chorus into possibly one of the catchiest verses in music history.

Yeah-ah!
Alright! (right now)
Let’s spend the night together
Wake up and live forever!

Jamiroquai is a lot more upbeat than the downtempo Pandora genres it’s often grouped with. If you like artists like Groove Armada, Morcheeba or Zero 7 you’ll be digging it but you’ll notice the difference as well. Morcheeba and Zero 7 are equipped with amazing vocalists but Jamiroquai makes you want to drive around the block one more time.
Like it’s acid-jazzy (and slightly trip-hoppy) counterparts, the lyrical content of Traveling Without Moving is often focused on love –longing for it, falling for it, losing it. Love has many faces though, including the love of mother earth, which perhaps has the strongest influence on the group’s overall vibe (“Emergency on Planet Earth” was the name of their first album). Reflections on the ecosystem, technology, and genetic engineering all compliment the slightly euphoric, space traveling edge that is Jamiroquai.
While you’ll recognize pretty quickly how serious the group is about making music, you’ll also have to take the time to see Jay Kay’s non-musical alter ego for shits and giggles. In interview, he speaks like a hardened English street bloke, his voice, deep and thuggish; seeming more suitable for screaming “Wanker!” at football games than for singing harmoniously. It’s all the more impressive listening to him sing with this in mind. Jay Kay summons an abysmal dole of unbelievable vocal talent.

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