Despite being shunned by the Critics Choice Award at the Brits and the BBC Sound of 2012 poll, the 27 year old Londoner has been steadily growing in popularity for the last 2 years, and this week, Jessie Ware releases her debut album Devotion.
Working first as a backing singer for Jack Peñate, Ware soon started moving amongst the right circles, working with SBTRKT on ‘Nervous’ which bagged Jessie her own solo record deal. Intrigued to see what music she came out with due to this musical past, and being tipped for greatness by music connoisseurs like Annie Mac, on my first listen I was left feeling a little disappointed by the launch of Jessie Ware’s album campaign with the release of ‘Running’. Firmly in a soulful pop genre, it was a world away from her previous post-dubstep sound in demo ‘Strangest Feeling’ and her collaborations with Joker, Sampha and SBTRKT. Of course, it quickly grew on me with its slick and sexy production courtesy of the Invisible’s Dave Okumu, and Kid Harpoon, and by the time I heard the incredible Disclosure remix, I was head over heels for Jessie.
Jessie’s voice take’s centre stage on Devotion, helped by restrained production and influences from her recent Brit-club music past. ‘Sweet Talk’ is a feather-light pop song which feels distinctly 80s thanks to the guitar solo middle-eight and echoing keyboard chords which form the bass line. ‘110%’ is another of the daintier, danceable songs on the album with playfully bouncy percussion and long, kitsch organ-like chords. On a more serious note, ‘No To Love’ and ‘Night Light’ are tracks which focus on the theme of relationships, alongside title-track ‘Devotion’, on which Ware sings “You say you want to love, but do you want it enough / the end of us, never hurt so much”.
However, Jessie’s ardent vocals are most momentously displayed on the ballads of the album like ‘Taking In Water’ or the stirring highlight and current single ‘Wildest Moments’. The latter has surprisingly sparse instrumentation but crashing drums and blurry synths are the perfect backdrop to Jessie’s heartfelt voice as she sings about the rocky relationship between her and a friend who she used to live with. In the chorus she croons “Baby in our wildest moments, we could be the greatest, we could be the greatest / baby in our wildest moments, we could be the worst of all” before going on to reflect, “From the outside / everyone must be wondering why we try”.
There is no doubt that Jessie has successfully ditched the “guest vocalist” label and forged her own solo career with her own inventive sound. Ware is consistently compared to 80s superstars like Sade and Chaka Khan, but with these comparisons, she could do a lot worse. Creating a sound of her own that is very 2012, there are no current pop stars to compare her to, which really sets her apart from the crowd. One of the most highly ranked albums of the year, it’s sure to be a favourite for the Mercury Music Award when the shortlist is announced next month.