Artist Spotlight: Jess Connelly

Jess Connelly is an Australian-Filipino singer from Manila, Philippines. Her music has all the trappings of a great R&B artist — soulful vocals, poignant lyrics and slick beats all wrapped up in exquisite musical production. But what makes Connelly truly stand out, for me at least, is where and how she has made a name for herself.  

Growing up in the coastal town of Wollongong, Connelly listened to the likes of Boyz II Men, Nas, Sade and Aaliyah. After turning 18, she moved to Manila where she truly found herself. 'I never went to college, but Manila felt like my college phase where I experienced a lot of things for the first time… I don't think I would have developed into who I'm at today if I didn't move here,' she said in an interview with Open Ceremony’s Daniel Buezo. 
Connelly broke into the entertainment scene in 2011 as a housemate in reality TV show Pinoy Big Brother, the Filipino franchise of original Dutch reality show Big Brother. After getting evicted, she gained roles on Filipino TV shows like Paraiso (2012-13) and The Boston (2014). After a sweet yet short acting career, Connelly hunkered down and focused on her true passion — music. 

After a stint as the frontwoman for electronic music group Sinyma, Connelly went out on her own, collaborating with various local producers and harnessing her love of R&B, soul and hip-hop to create the unique sound we hear today. 

HOW I LOVE (2016) 
In 2016, Connelly released an EP How I Love, which was a collaboration with producer CRWN. Containing four beautifully crafted songs about love, lust and everything in between, this EP gave listeners an exciting insight to the incredible talent that is Jess Connelly. Here are my two favourite tracks from the EP. 
We’re first introduced to Connelly’s unique sound with ‘Wait’, a deliciously smooth track on the surface that actually packs a lyrical punch. In the first verse, Connelly coolly sings 'If you can maybe prove you do shit, Then I won't ever need to lose it, yeah'. These laidback vocals are apparent in all of Connelly’s music, giving her that cool girl I don’t give a f*ck attitude that I love so much. Production wise, this track is a mix of delicate piano arrangements, synth beats and bass that elevate the song and gives it a bit of oomph. CRWN’s innate talent at production compliments Connelly’s sweet, velvety vocals and makes this first track a great first impression.  

‘With You’ is a sultry track that features Mito Fabie, the 22-year-old smooth talking rapper known as Curtismith. The track is a playful conversation between the two artists that encapsulates the excitement and intensity that comes with a new attraction. This romantic tension can be heard throughout the entire track. Each beat and piano arrangement in the verses resonates carefully and thoughtfully until we reach the hook where there is a bit of release (sort of like a musical exhale) and we delve into the chorus where Connelly sings 'Cause I’m working it out, with you. I don’t know what you’re ‘bout, you’re a new thing I do'.

2017 was a great year for Connelly. ‘Turn Me Down’ is definitely one of my favourite tracks of the year. A collaboration with producer lustbass, this song is like soaking up a sexy tropical R&B dream. Again, listeners are blessed with Connelly’s incredibly smooth vocals, a simple piano arrangement and slick musical production. In ‘Turn Me Down’, you can hear Connelly playing around with her vocals a little more, which is a very welcome addition to her already amazing music. To me, this track is one of those perfect chill songs that you listen to by the beach or pool, drink in hand and the sun setting in the horizon. 

Connelly’s music sounds more confident than ever before and listening to her music evolve is such a joy. Her most recent release ‘DEEP + INVOLVED’ is another steamy, eargasmic track created in partnership with producer similar objects. 

Growing up in the Philippines, the music that I listened to was mostly corny, pop love songs. They were catchy of course and I loved them as a kid because it was on the radio 24/7. 

What I love about Connelly’s music is that it is truly her own style and miles beyond what I grew up listening to. While I don’t live in the Philippines anymore, I’d like to think that her music is a big game changer that goes against the status quo of what Filipino popular music sounds like. And that makes me very, very proud and excited. 

After listening to Connelly’s music, I’ve become more invested in looking at the music from the Philippines. I’m sure that there are more unique underground Filipino artists out there making incredible music that are yet to be discovered. 

Slowly, but surely, Jess Connelly is making a name for herself in the music industry. While she is already a growing artist in the Philippines, her music has also caught the eyes and ears of Tidal and Spotify. 

If her current songs are anything to go by, then I am 100% sure that her upcoming JCON MIXTAPE will blow people’s minds. I’ll bet any money for it. 

You can check out more of Jess Connelly’s music via her Soundcloud and her Facebook

Written by Sallie Rodriguez

(Photo by Redge Hawang via Jess Connelly's FB)

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