“Who is she? Is she folk? Is she rock? Is she pop?” asks an interviewer at the beginning of Taylor Janzen’s new music video for “What I Do…,” the Winnipeg, Canada artist’s first single for Glassnote. File it under “bad interview questions,” but it does show how Janzen’s music has morphed into something much different from when she burst onto the scene with 2018’s Interpersonal, a singer/songwriter folk-adjacent EP in the same vein as Phoebe Bridgers or Julien Baker. She then upped the ante with 2019’s Shouting Matches, one of our favorite EPs of the year, turning up the guitars and letting her voice soar to otherworldly heights. New single “What I Do…,” first released just before Thanksgiving, sees her add ’90s pop elements into the mix, yet another surprise in the 20-year-old musician’s young career.
But placing labels on Janzen—and any other artist—is a futile exercise: Janzen is increasingly in a class all of her own, making music that touches on all three aforementioned genres in her own way, never quite leaning fully into any single one. “You know, I think genre at this point is kind of irrelevant,” she replies to the interviewer. “It’s kind of like asking what clique you were in in high school.” And when he bites and asks about her high school experience, it leads to the rest of the video, where Janzen takes on the persona of a handful of different teenage stereotypes, from the cheerleader to the nerd, the edgy leather-jacket clad girl to the goth. “That’s just what I do,” she sings defiantly on the chorus, which takes on a different meaning entirely in this context. Janzen explained the song in a statement:
“What I Do…” is a song I wrote about being in a serious relationship and suddenly realizing that your issues are affecting someone else for the first time, and not entirely knowing how to change that. Musically, it’s a bit of a departure from my previous songs, so for the music video we decided to show how one artist can explore many different forms as that’s always something that should be celebrated. Asking someone to define their genre is like asking someone what their high school clique was, entirely outdated and a little dumb. So that’s exactly what we decided to show in the video.
Even though the music video makes a compelling case for not putting an artist in a box, it’s obvious she’s having a lot of fun here. It looks like filming this was a blast, and she even cracks a smile a few times as well. This probably isn’t the first time she’s encountered a writer from hell—and it definitely won’t be the last—but it seems like she’s having the time of her life exploring new sounds and instruments as she becomes an artist all her own. Watch the “What I Do…” video below, followed by Janzen’s Paste Studio session from earlier this year.
Revisit Taylor Janzen’s Paste session from SXSW earlier this year: