Making her presence felt in the world of electronic dance music is Janine Berenson, a native Floridian who has like so many come to NYC to flourish her art and excel at that which drives her.
Fortunately for us, Janine Berenson is one artist who is well on her way of becoming a household sensation as I recently caught up with the chanteuse whilst recording her monumental 5 track EP ‘Strong.’
Already nominated for a Grammy award for her hit single, ‘We can have it all,’ (not bad for your first EP) the Jewish Cuban girl as she coyly refers herself, aspires to bring joy and positivity to the world.
With her racy tracks and breath taking vocals (Ms Berenson holds a degree in audio music and speech therapy thank you very much from prestigious George Washington University which she advises me has given her a keen ear), Berenson transcends us with her striking lyrical voice.
Tells Berenson: ‘I always wanted to be a singer. A performer. I think I have something there. I just want to try and put it out there. You know I feel life so viscerally. Do you know what I mean.’
Her recent efforts also include teaming up with billboard charting sensation Duncan Morley whose latest single, ‘If time runs out,’ has already raced up the dance charts world wide courtesy of star DJ Paul Oakenfold taking a savage liking and remix to it.
Their collaborative effort has spawned the high octane melody ‘Free’ which has already gone on to merit the attention of Interscope Records.
Janine’s motto is about being a power woman, a woman who takes in her own sense of self and vitality and seeks to explore positive themes and to be totally free and empowered to explore the world. That said, Janine is acutely conscious of her upbringing and revels in her Orthodox Jewish Cuban milieu.
Interestingly Janine goes on to tell me that her duet with Duncan includes two verses she sings in Hebrew:
‘Give me love, give me peace, give me freedom, we can have it all.’
Asked if she sees a potential contradiction with some of the stricter teachings of Orthodox Jewish philosophy the young woman digresses and offers on the contrary:
“In fact I find that my faith and my family empowers me and I use that to seek a higher sense of self and appreciation of the world,”
‘Sure it’s a balancing act to stay firm and committed to my beliefs and people ask me how can you sing about female power or expressing freedom to explore certain feelings and thoughts but that too is the indelible challenge.
‘But if you must know, so much of my faith is about celebrating and accepting life and cherishing love and femininity and I just love dance music, and I just want to sing and dance my heart out. That’s what you get when you grow up in with sultry Latin roots and a family where every Friday night you would have 25-30 relatives drop by for shabbat break dancing in the living room….’
She suddenly get up and proceeds to show off one of her dance moves before slyly smiling back at me:
‘Yeah it’s a question of respecting tradition but within the framework of a modern framework and a little bit of kink….’
As a teenager, Janine Berenson goes on to tell me she was part of a hip hop troupe (Live in Color) that travelled Florida performing.
SCV: Hip hop dance? You know how to do that? Isn’t that a little off base for a sassy Jewish babe?
JB: You think? (laughing uncontrollably). I love it. I love the genre. I love dancing and getting out there and I love all the motions, the rhythm and just being able to express my body.’
SCV: Is that something that you consciously put in your music, when you record?
JB: Nothing I write or sing or perform doesn’t have the notion of how it will look on stage performed. It is just not the song and lyrics it’s also the whole body experience. I want to feel it from my mind, my throat, my soul and out through my body. It’s a whole body thing for me.
Hip hop dancing though just didn’t stem from its own design. Janine goes on to tell me like most ‘good girls’ she went on to study ballet but found it conflicting and limiting.
I wanted to express myself more rapidly. With more fire. It didn’t necessarily feel organic to me. I wanted to try more, experience a wider variety of myself. Something more fluid, self absorbing and going at a hundred miles an hour.
SCV: Besides singing and dancing you also…?
JB: Act. Yeah I have been fortunate to be sent out some castings and get to play bit parts on tv, music videos, promos, etc
SCV: Anything memorable?
JB: I got to play a dead heroine once…(starts laughing)
SCV: How do you go about recording your material?
JB: It’s an organic experience. I think about what I am feeling. What I would like to experience and how to transcend myself. I think music is wonderful like that. You can really get to the juice of yourself and express and experience yourself in a way that perhaps you wouldn’t normally and maybe if you’re lucky you’ll leave other people feeling good too.’
SCV: Is life about feeling good? Have you ever felt extreme sadness or challenges?
JB: Sure I think we all go through tough times ( ‘I took the death of my maternal Cuban grandmother pretty hard, what an awesome zest for life and role model she was,’) but I think it’s a conscious choice to try to see the positive and to live in that domain and put away negative feelings.
I think that’s the beauty of dance and music. You can really explore wonderful positive things and just put it out there and be experiment and see how it goes. Frankly I think being negative is a waste of time and just keeps you down. I think it’s important to be positive and spiritual, to ride through what sometimes aches us.
SCV: Have you ever been in love?
JB: Oh yeah. For sure. But we both decided to move on. (pausing to think) Yeah that was sad…
SCV: And on the weekend you like to…?
JB: Dance, sing, go out, see art, hang out with family, friends, laugh, sweat from my pores at some gritty dance floor…
SCV: Is electronic dance your preferred genre?
JB: That’s a good question. No, I mean my ballad with Duncan has a more earthy ballad feel to it but of course with beat. I want to try rock and roll, R and B and even musical theater.
SCV: Are there any Jewish recording artists that you aspire to? Is that something you pay attention to?
JB: Sure. I love Alex Claire. But I also love my pop. My Miley Cyrus. Oops. Does that make me cheesy? Yeah but I also love LOUD, NEO, ZED too.
SCV: What do you think of Miley Cyrus’ raunchy half naked expressions and all that twerking she does?
JB: Ha ha, I love it. I say go girl. Do what makes you feel good. If no one likes it, that’s their problem. Really she’s just expressing herself.
SCV: But you don’t think in some way it’s a kind of negation of women and negatively exploiting her sexuality?
JB. No, not at all. I think it’s part of her art and nothing to do with putting women down. I think it’s how she gets off and you can either take it or leave it and I think a lot of people love it. It empowers them to be in a way that perhaps they would be afraid normally to be.
SCV: Which suggests…?
JB: That I’m just as bad ass too. (Janine gets up and shows me another dance move, winking in half jest). Come on man, you got to feel life and celebrate. Just do it. Let all the bad vibes go and just dance.
SCV: What’s one thing you’d never be caught dead without?
JB: Ha! My high heels.
SCV: Where do you think you will be in five years?
JB: A living legacy. At least that’s what I am aiming for. Come on, want to get up and dance with me already….?
Janine Berenson‘s latest hit single ‘We can have it all,’ can be acquired hereon Apple I tunes.
Janine Berenson’s Facebook fan page is here.
Soundcloud page here