Michelle Medina Villalon

Laufey and Her “Bewitching” Music Exude Gen Z Charm with a Classical Flair

By Michelle Medina Villalon

A few months ago, I was scrolling through my phone in a moment of boredom, mindlessly watching short-form content. I suddenly stumbled across a video with an extremely familiar opening cadence and quickly realized that the song I was hearing was one by my long-time favorite, previously niche, artist: Laufey. 

Laufey Lín Bing Jónsdóttir, known artistically as Laufey (pronounced LAY-vay), is a twenty-five-year-old singer-songwriter and record producer. The Icelandic-Chinese musician has been active since April 2020, when she released her debut single, “Street by Street.” But she’s been honing her craft for much longer.

In fact, Laufey comes from a musical family. Her grandfather was a music educator in China and her mother is a classical violinist. Her sister, Junia, is also a violinist who often joins Laufey onstage.

Laufey’s musical journey began at age four, when she began learning piano. She picked up the cello at age eight, and by fifteen, she had made her debut as a cello soloist with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra. Her expansive music education includes renowned institutions such as the Reykjavik College of Music and Berklee College of Music. 

Though Laufey’s musical beginnings were mostly in the classical sphere, the singer experimented with other genres early on. She has called jazz her “first love” for helping her embrace her naturally low singing voice. Laufey’s first forays into pop came later and with hesitation as she felt her alto range was not common in the genre at the time.

Eventually, the young singer’s voice blossomed into a distinctive and moving pop sound. It was Laufey’s powerful covers of pop hits that earned praise on the Icelandic version of Got Talent and The Voice Iceland, on which she became the youngest competitor in the series’ history at the time. 


So, how did the world just discover this stellar talent?

The rise of short-form content like TikTok videos, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts have revolutionized the way younger generations listen to music. One viral video can become a debut single, which can lead to an EP, then an album. Before you know it, someone who was making song covers for fun in their bedroom now has a GRAMMY.

Laufey’s soaring path to international fame is just one example. In April 2020, Laufey posted her first song on TikTok, “Like the Movies,” a dreamy pop song about falling in love the way people do in films. Her novel vintage-sounding voice and simple instrumentals caught the attention of many looking for comfort and connection in the early days of the pandemic. Her music felt wistful and longing, a feeling shared by many isolating at home, far away from loved ones and familiar social circles.

Laufey continued to post her covers and original songs to a moderate, but steadily increasing online fanbase. By 2023, Laufey’s music had healthy success in her home country of Iceland and her EP, Typical of Me, had a #2 spot on the US Jazz charts. In August 2023, the singer announced she’d signed a record deal with Warner Chappell Music.

It was the release of her first album with WMC, titled Bewitched, last September that catapulted the singer to entirely new heights. Laufey’s dedicated TikTok audience, a following which she had been building since those song covers in 2020, quickly propelled this jazz-classical-pop hybrid album into the mainstream. 

Bewitched charted in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. One track that gained instant popularity as a short-form content audio clip, “From the Start,” made it to the US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart.

Since then, Laufey has enjoyed consistent acclaim, including a GRAMMY award for Best Traditional Pop Album and a nearly sold-out international tour. And it’s not hard to see why her unique blend of music has “bewitched” audiences of all ages.

At a recent Laufey concert I attended in Williamsburg, VA, I expected her audience to reflect the artist’s massive social media following. Though many concertgoers fell into the Gen Z category, I was surprised to see much more generationally diverse representation in the crowd. 

Laufey has described herself as “very much a 21st century girl.” If you look at her marketing, the pop influences in her music, and generally playful approach to more traditional genres, it’s clear the artist does not try to fit the mold of any other generation. 

It’s the nostalgia her sound evokes and her classical training that make Laufey accessible to fanbases beyond her TikTok following. Her haunting, warm alto voice is effortlessly timeless, reminiscent of great singers of days past. Laufey has even cited Ella Fitzgerald as one of her greatest influences.

As Laufey’s music has evolved, she’s also taken more risks with a style that distinguishes itself from the more digital sound of today’s pop music. Bewitched features swaying piano, rich strings, and even a collaboration with the Philharmonia Orchestra. One of her most recent releases this year, a single titled Goddess, fully leans into classical-pop fusion with a complex piano motif underscoring lilting vocals, creating an awe-inspiring symphonic texture.

Video: Laufey – Goddess (Live)

The more Laufey leans into her classical training, it seems, the more her audience embraces classical music. The singer frequently performs with orchestras around the world and is always eager to take a break between songs to play the cello at her concerts. At the concert I attended, she played her piece “Nocturne,” a contemporary classical piano feature on her latest album, captivating the audience just as easily as she would with one of her more traditional pop songs.

Though Laufey’s overnight rise to fame may strike some as temporary, you only need to listen to one of her songs to see this artist is here to stay. She certainly has the talent to keep generating extraordinary hits, and remains effervescently charming as a musical personality. If you want a curated taste of Laufey’s more classical-leaning music, check out our playlist below!

  1. Let You Break My Heart Again (Laufey, Philharmonia Orchestra)
  2. Goddess
  3. Lovesick
  4. Bewitched
  5. Fragile – Live at The Symphony (Laufey, Iceland Symphony Orchestra)
  6. California and Me (Laufey, Philharmonia Orchestra)
  7. Nocturne (Interlude)
  8. From The Start
  9. Valentine – Live at the Symphony (Laufey, Iceland Symphony Orchestra)
  10. Above the Chinese Restaurant

Behind the “Scenes”: An Inside Look at the Charlotte Symphony’s Movie Series

By Michelle Medina Villalon

The Charlotte Symphony’s Movie Series combines beloved films with epic musical performances for audiences seeking a different movie-going experience. At these events, the orchestra plays scores live and in sync with the film, displayed above the stage on a larger-than-life screen. 

These performances allow audiences to experience the exhilarating scores of their favorite movies firsthand, giving them a chance to notice nuances and dimensions in the music they may not have heard before.

Previous blockbuster hits featured in the series include Home Alone, Jurassic Park, and several films from the Star Wars saga. This upcoming Friday and Saturday, the Charlotte Symphony will present another iconic John Williams score, Jaws, just in time for summer!

It goes without saying that these concerts offer a distinctly different taste of symphonic music than a performance of, say, Tchaikovsky and Brahms. But how does the experience vary for the musicians onstage?

WDAV got the chance to chat with Jeff Ferdon, a double bassist with the Charlotte Symphony, to get a behind-the-scenes look at just what goes into preparing for a Movie Series concert.

What does the Movie Series add to the Symphony’s array of programming? Do you feel that concerts like these make classical music more accessible to audiences?

I sense a more diverse audience attending our classics series and, in large part, I think that’s due to our movie series. Most movie scores have a lot in common with the musical language of 19th and 20th century classical repertoire. This is especially true for the music of John Williams. That shared musical vocabulary really opens the door to our classical concerts. Furthermore, audiences develop strong personal and emotional associations to the film scores they love. That shared emotional language enables them to experience similar qualities embodied in the repertoire of our classics series.

Surprisingly, I’ve also noticed a change in the way audiences respond to and applaud for our classical performances. I think it’s a result of cross pollination in our audiences. Over the past couple of years, audiences have become more vocal and cheer as they would for a movie or at a rock concert.

Can you walk us through what a typical rehearsal for one of these concerts would look like?

We put these concerts together in just two rehearsals. That’s a tall order given the virtuosity and mental focus required to play a full length John Williams score. It’s a process that begins with lots of individual practice prior to the first rehearsal. In addition to that, music of this complexity requires an excellent conductor. Thankfully, our very capable Resident Conductor, Chris Lees is usually on the podium for these shows. It never ceases to amaze me how Chris can remember every cue and tempo change in an opera-like Star Wars score. He has to be on top of every aspect of the music as well as the technical production.

Because these scores are so long we can’t possibly work through every note in our first rehearsal. Chris has to decide beforehand which scenes will need work and which to leave for dress rehearsal. This requires a strong sense of mutual trust between Chris and the orchestra.

The next morning we come back for dress rehearsal and have our only chance to run through the entire movie. If there’s time left on the clock we might clean up a few spots. The hardest part? After the morning dress rehearsal coming back that night for the first performance. It’s like running two marathons back to back.

What do you wish audiences knew when they attend a Movie Series concert? 

When a movie soundtrack is recorded it’s done scene by scene, bit by bit. The entire score was never intended to be played straight through live, in a concert setting. But that’s what we do. We play the entire soundtrack like an opera, 2-1/2 hours end to end. 

On top of that, the music is as demanding as anything we play on the concert stage. All those battle scenes in a Star Wars film? We fight them vicariously through our instruments. It’s physically and mentally punishing. At the end of the concert, we’re beat!

All of this illustrates what incredible musicians I get to work with. Not only do my colleagues sound phenomenal, they’re as tough and resilient as professional athletes.

Do you have a most memorable Movie Series concert moment to share? Or perhaps a composer whose score(s) you have enjoyed playing the most? 

I’ll always remember one particular moment playing The Empire Strikes Back. We had reached the famous lightsaber battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. Just as Luke is about to lose his hand to Vader, someone in the audience yelled out, “We love you, Luke!” I actually got a little misty-eyed. For me, this shows the depth of meaning the music has for film fans. I’m so happy they’re bringing that heart-on-the-sleeve openness to our classical series.

Catch the Charlotte Symphony’s Movie Series program, Jaws in Concert,” the weekend of June 14-15, 2024, at the Belk Theater and check out next season’s Movie Series lineup here.

Pictured: The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra rehearses playing the soundtrack for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on stage; courtesy of Jeff Ferdon.

 A Tantalizing Third Season of Bridgerton

By Michelle Medina Villalon

🔔 Spoiler warning: This article reveals major details about Bridgerton Season 3. If you prefer to get the buzz about this season from Whistledown herself, proceed with caution.

Last weekend was a particularly busy one in the ton, or more accurately, for dear fans of the Netflix original series Bridgerton. After a two year long absence, the series has returned with a new season centering the slow-burn romance of Lady Whistledown herself, Penelope Featherington, and Colin Bridgerton. The first four episodes of the appropriately dubbed “Polin season” debuted on May 16th with the release of four more episodes scheduled for June 13th.

This strategic release plan has certainly left viewers eager for what’s still to come. However, the perceived brevity of the first release does not speak for the depth of detail infused into each of the four episodes. From costumes to well-timed glances, and of course, a great deal of classical music, the first half of the season left us plenty of breadcrumbs to savor while we wait for June. So, grab the mille-feuille and pour the tea as we unpack our latest outing into the Mayfair marriage mart.

Though Bridgerton has the air of your typical period drama, the series has become known for its subversion of the genre through blending Regency era conventions with contemporary culture. With each season, audiences delight in vibrant reinventions of Regency silhouettes, string quartet arrangements of familiar pop songs, and diverse casting representation. The world of Bridgerton brings a fresher version of a period drama to this generation, which is arguably most visible in its music.

As with any visual storytelling medium, Bridgerton relies heavily on musical underscoring to not only match the emotional weight of its scenes, but also to create a thematic sense of how fantasy meets history in the series. In this season, audiences heard snippets of Mozart and Beethoven alongside classical music-inspired covers of hits by artists like Taylor Swift and Pitbull as we journeyed through the drama unfolding in the ton. 

Perhaps the most “sparkling” example of classical music’s influence this season comes from Francesca Bridgerton, the shy, musically-inclined Bridgerton daughter who starts the season by making her debut on the marriage mart. Episode 1 opens with Francesca Bridgerton’s rendition of Mozart’s Funeral March, a witty nod to her slight dread of coming out into society. Francesca also plays Scarlatti’s Keyboard Sonata in G major later in the episode after her brother, Colin, brings it home as a gift to her from his travels.

In Episode 2, Francesca references her enjoyment of the Ries Piano Trios and Beethoven’s Appassionata. She plays the latter piece at the end of the episode before being caught by Queen Charlotte, who subsequently names her the season’s “sparkler” for her skills at the pianoforte.

This character has been featured briefly in past seasons, but since being recast, fans are expecting to learn more about her story. Though she is not at the forefront of this season, we can foresee a focus on her to come sooner rather than later.

But Francesca is not the only important source of classical music in the season. Haydn fans may rejoice to hear many of the composer’s string quartets shine throughout each of the episodes, and Episode 4 opens with Peter Gregson’s Sequence (Three) as tensions rise in the Featherington household. Even Bach’s Violin Concerto No. 2 , III. ‘Allegro assai’ makes it into the mix! 

Of course, we’d be remiss to not acknowledge the musical backbone of Bridgerton: its array of classical covers of contemporary pop songs. To create greater buzz around the first release, Netflix and Shondaland announced all the classical covers in Season 3 ahead of May 16th. 

As is standard for the series, the list includes a Taylor Swift cover, “Snow on the Beach,” a collaboration with alt-pop artist Lana del Rey from her Midnights album. Recent Academy Award winner Billie Eilish’s 2021 hit “Happier Than Ever” is also featured on this season’s soundtrack.

However, in this author’s view, the classical cover that stole the show was featured in Episode 4 as Penelope and Colin finally make the crossover from friends to lovers. Pitbull’s “Give Me Everything” was transformed into a stripped down arrangement for strings performed by Archer Marsh. Fans of the show have been pining for this scene since the first season, so this gorgeously intense cover certainly gave us everything we’d been waiting to see.

Though we’re still a little less than a month out for the next installment of Bridgerton, there are already some musical moments to look forward to. The series will debut its first original song in the next four episodes: “All I Want,” arranged by composer Kris Bowers and performed by two-time GRAMMY award winner, Tori Kelly, will show up somewhere in the second half of the season alongside covers of Doja Cat and Meghan Trainor songs. 

It’ll be exciting to see what new classical music morsels Bridgerton gives us come June. Let us hope the unfolding drama will be just as, if not more, delectable.

WDAV Announces New Transmitter

By Michelle Medina Villalon

After nearly two years, WDAV is pleased to announce that we are broadcasting on a brand new transmitter! This transmitter replaces a thirty-year-old analog transmitter we used as a back-up after our previous one was damaged by lightning.

We began broadcasting on the new transmitter on April 17th. Listeners may have noticed a few brief pops off the air during this process. We appreciate your patience as this important piece of equipment was installed.

You may have noticed something else that’s returned after a long time missing: the artist and title information displayed on certain types of radios when you tune to WDAV. Fortunately, our new state-of-the-art transmitter has dual digital/analog capabilities and enables us to transmit this information once again.

In addition to that helpful information we are able to broadcast sub-channels such as our HD-2, which features a continuous stream of Concierto episodes. Additionally, the new transmitter provides us with stronger, more robust signals.

We’ve spent the last month ironing out the wrinkles that are bound to happen with a change like this one. We sincerely thank those who reached out to let us know they could see artist/title information and/or noticed a change in our signal.

We are delighted to share this news with you and hope you enjoy listening to the music you love better than ever!

Walk with WDAV on National Walking Day

By Michelle Medina Villalon

Today, WDAV celebrates National Walking Day with a specially curated playlist for our classical community. Whether you take this 50 minute playlist along on a sunny trail or the treadmill, we hope it brings you a moment of joy, reflection, and encouragement for your Wednesday! All pieces were chosen to be specifically “walkable” with approximately 90-110 BPM. You may notice the playlist picks up along the midway mark to put some pep in your step as well. 

Check out our playlist below, also available on Spotify.

  1. “Serenade for Wind in D Minor Op. 44 III Andante con moto” (Antonín Dvořák)
  2. “Appalachian Spring: III. Moderato” (Aaron Copland)
  3. “The Planets, Op. 32: 3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger” (Gustav Holst)
  4. “Carnival of the Animals, R. 125: XI. Pianists” (Camille Saint-Saëns)
  5. “Solace” (Scott Joplin)
  6. “Theme Varie” (Manuel Ponce)
  7. “Sicilienne” (Gabriel Fauré)
  8. “Pièces Froides No. 2  Trois Danses de travers” (Erik Satie)
  9. “Archetypes: IV. The Lover” (Clarice Assad)
  10. “Suite No. 3 in D Major BWV 1068: 11. Air” (Johann Sebastian Bach)