The Joy Factor: Powerfox and Ponymane

Nothing brings a smile to my face like people having fun with music. It's why I teach it. It's why I put up with abusive parents, unyielding administrators, and co-workers who think that age alone defines experience level and no one in their 20s ever deserves respect. Seeing a student light up when they perform and grow as a musician makes me happy. I'm going to introduce a new feature today that will hopefully be able to bring a smile to your face: The Joy Factor. Here I'm going to point you in the direction of musicians you might not know about who are clearly having fun with their craft. They could be young or old, dead or alive, CHR-style or classical, instrumental or vocal, even international or American. There are no boundaries to acknowledging people who are able to show they are having fun with their music.

The first act being discussed is Powerfox and Ponymane. I've brought them up before in my post about former American Idol contestants you should know about. I'll probably bring them up again in a month or so when Platinum Hit premieres on Bravo.* And I don't think one of their YouTube videos has gone by in the past year or so that I haven't tweeted about.

Powerfox and Ponymane are Jackie Tohn and Jes Hudak. They do covers of songs with a keyboard and guitar/ukelele that may or may not have been performed recently on that American Idol show. I think it's best to just start off with a video.

So two singer-songwriters collaborated on a mash-up of Maroon 5's "Harder to Breathe"** and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit." They wore coordinating grunge-esque plaid shirts ala the Seattle-school's obsession with flannel and sang in harmony the entire time. Just look at them: they're having a ball. They're grooving to the music and if you were doubting their enjoyment level, focus in on that a capella breakdown at the end.

Speaking of fun, these two pretty consistently joke around with each other while performing. Do they lose it? Well, not in the takes that make it on YouTube, unless they want those takes to get released. Take, for instance, their cover of Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold."

Strong arrangement, funny introduction, and they seem to be trying to get each other to break the whole time. But do they break? Not enough to ruin the performance. Their personalities and interactions actually make it better.

Powerfox and Ponymane have fun with music and that's enough for me to be a fan.

I'll leave you with my favorite of their covers, "Can't Help Falling in Love." For all the joking around at the start with the dreamy introductions, they take a lovely song and do it justice without overselling the sentimentality of the lyrics. It's a tricky balancing act and they get it just right.

*Because they're both competing, naturally.

**My favorite Maroon 5 song, not that that has any significance beyond pointing out how great that song it.