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  • Jonathan Widran

JACKIE EVANCHO, "Behind My Eyes 2.0"

In September 2023, thirteen years and over half her life since entering our cultural consciousness as runner up on the fifth season of America’s Got Talent, Jackie Evancho wrote a heartfelt Facebook post announcing the release of the song and lyric video for her new single “Behind My Eyes.”


Written by Jackie and produced by founding Smash Mouth member Greg Camp, the hip, sultry and soulful, easy grooving track balanced the inviting lower register of the singer’s stunning four octave vocal range with her more familiar high notes while also showcasing her songwriting artistry as a young woman in her early 20s, steadily making her way past her years as a globally acclaimed child vocal prodigy.


Deftly echoing the lyrics of the song, which begins “I’ve been getting kinda scared/And feeling unprepared/For what’s to come,” Jackie wrote, “If I’m being honest, I’m nervous to share this part of me. While it’s who I’ve been for a while, it will be new to you all. In the end, it’s my truth, and I hope you all take a piece of it with you…”


Having just released “Behind My Eyes 2.0,” a slightly shorter version of the track featuring a subtly different mix, the singer is aiming for a younger audience not only with a wholly new sonic presentation (blending airy synth and catchy beats) but also with a bold choice of a song that beyond her personal transformation, speaks directly and universally to the fears faced by young adults from her generation as they make their way in the world. When she sings in the chorus, “If you could see behind my eyes/You’d see the truth inside the lies,” it’s as if she’s letting us know that she no longer wants to pretend the Jackie the world has previously embraced will satisfy her creative needs going forward. In unleashing her truth as a 23-year-old reborn artist, she aims to inspire people of a whole different generation and demographic to unleash their own shackles and fearlessly embrace who they are.


Jackie’s incredible success as an instant star via her performances on AGT led to an incredible decade of success as a classical crossover artist. Starting with her 2010 holiday EP O Holy Night (which made her the best selling debut artist of the year) and her David Foster produced full-length debut Dream With Me (which debuted on the Billboard 200 chart at #2 and featured a duet on “Somewhere” with Barbra Streisand), the singer and her otherworldly operatic voice became a global sensation, headlining two PBS specials, performing throughout the U.S. and in Russia and Japan (among other countries) and releasing hit albums featuring sacred songs, holiday tunes and film and Broadway classics. Along the way, she recorded with everyone from Chris Botti and Joshua Bell to The Tenors and Il Volo.



This whirlwind of success took its toll, however, and Jackie has been forthcoming that her career was interrupted in 2019 by a mental breakdown related to an eating disorder and body dysmorphia that she struggled with for several years. Her career trajectory changed not long after when she participated as “Kitty” on season three of the hit Fox TV show The Masked Singer. Because she used different parts of her voice (rather than the familiar high operatic range) none of the judges guessed her identity when she was eliminated from the competition and her mask finally came off. Among the guesses were Anna Kendrick, Nicole Richie, The Olsen Twins and Vanessa Hudgens. Everyone was shocked that it was Jackie – and the singer has been surprising everyone with her development as a songwriter and artist since.



While the popularity of The Masked Singer and the notoriety Jackie received on the show make that an easy place to pinpoint a creative crossroads, the true stepping stone to discovering and unleashing this new version of herself was her 2022 independent release Carousel of Time, a stunning Fred Mollin-produced collection featuring Jackie’s beyond beautiful, gracefully arranged interpretations of some of Joni Mitchell’s best loved hits and album classics. The singer’s exploration of Mitchell’s catalog was the perfect transition to and inspiration for tapping into her own instincts as a poetic, heartfelt singer/songwriter capable of touching our heartstrings beyond her soaring operatic trademarks.


Carousel of Time was never destined to be a hit album like her previous works Two Hearts (2017) and The Debut (2019), which were her seventh and eighth consecutive releases to reach #1 on the Billboard Classical Albums chart. But the point was not more chart success – it was about laying a foundation for the adult artist Jackie was always destined to be.


As Jackie embraces this next crucial phase of her career, longtime fans expecting more operatic fire may seem puzzled at the change. But others will surely open up to the fact that every great artist deserves a chance to evolve and be judged on their present work and not always in reference to the past. And hopefully those in her peer group (and slightly older folks in their later 20s and early to mid-30s still finding their way in the world) will recognize a kindred spirit who needs to spread her wings as they do.


Heartfelt, insightful, honestly written and dynamically produced, “Behind My Eyes” (both the original and 2.0) versions is an engaging, impactful song that should be appreciated on its own merit. It is hopefully just the launch of an exciting new chapter in the fascinating life and career of Jackie Evancho.   

   

 

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