Once heard, some voices are never forgotten. You know them when you hear them: they seem to inscribe sentiments directly upon your soul. Voices like that rarely belong to a single genre – they transcend limitations, and, sometimes, they defy description. Michelle Johnson has a voice like that, and for decades, she’s been using it to shake, move, and inspire listeners. Her style – best described as Carole King meets Ella Fitzgerald – draws from jazz, pop, soft rock, musical theater, gritty blues, and soul. Her aesthetic has roots deep in the singer-songwriter tradition with traces of gospel and folk, and echoes of the vocal masters who ruled the radio waves in the days before rock and roll. But it’s a contemporary voice, too – one that would fit in snugly on any sophisticated pop playlist. That voice lights up “I’m All In,” the Las Vegas artist’s warm and vibrant latest single. It’s a quiet showcase for her immense talent, and an introduction to the rare artist with the capacity to reach music fanatics of all tastes and ages.
A singer with skills like these is bound to be in demand – and, indeed, she’s been a busy session singer and live performer since graduating from Yale University. She’s recorded, performed, or shared stages with some of the biggest names in entertainment: Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Barbra Streisand to name a few. She’s toured and sung with Gladys Knight, supported Sugarland at the AMC Awards, and served as vocal arranger and soloist on HBO’s Comic Relief. Her talents have taken her to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, MTV’s 120 Minutes, The Arsenio Hall Show, and Soul Train. These credits testify to her astonishing vocal abilities, yes, but they’re also hallmarks of her flexibility. Country music, pop shows, church services, arena rock acts: no matter what the event is, it’s better when it’s graced by Michelle Johnson’s voice.
“I’m All In” is more than just a soulful, jazz-inflected ballad. The track is a statement of purpose from an artist who is wholly committed to everything she does, and whose dedication is apparent in every bar she sings. Director Rob DePew captures that quiet intensity in his gorgeous video for “I’m All In,” presenting the star as a stellar songwriter as well as an electrifying singer. The camera finds her (and her grand piano) in a breathtaking desert setting, on parched ground, and with tall mountains ringing the horizon. She looks every bit of what she is: a woman of achievement. But there’s also the child she was – a little girl, alone and bewildered on the streets of a busy city, coming to a consciousness of the range of her powers. Through the magic of music, the two figures meet. It’s inspiring for both of them, and for viewers, too.