Tough Love is Jessie Ware’s sophomore album, following on from her critically acclaimed debut Devotion. Devotion was one of the best received albums of 2012, being nominated for the Mercury prize, used as the backing track for sports coverage all throughout the summer and reaching the top of multiple ‘best of’ lists. With a two year break between the two records, I was intrigued to see how Tough Love would live up to Ware’s previous releases, and whether she’d fall victim to the ‘curse of the second album’. The first two singles, ‘Say You Love Me’ and ‘Tough Love’ were as stylish and catchy as her previous offerings, which meant I had high hopes for Ware’s upcoming release.
The album as a whole is elegantly produced and easy to listen too. With guest writers like Miguel, Julio Bashmore and Ed Sheeran, each track is a song in its own right, with no ‘filler’ tracks. It’s a joy to listen to, with some great electronic production and interesting vocal lines.
Sheeran penned track, ‘Say You Love Me’ is amongst the strongest on the album. With a gradual crescendo culminating in an uplifting gospel inspired final chorus, before these instrumentals suddenly stop for the final, heart breaking cries of “Won’t you stay?” This is both Ware and Sheeran’s writing at the very best. ‘You & I (Forever)’, co-written by Miguel, is unfortunately not as successful. Although there is some interesting instrumentation (particularly the opening siren style synthesizers), once the vocals kick in it’s just not that interesting. Yet other tracks on the album more than make up for this, with the sultry chorus of ‘Champagne Kisses’, the candid lyrics to ‘Desire’ and the brilliant beats of ‘Tough Love’ all showing Ware’s skills in different aspects of the songwriting process.
However, as good as this record is, I was slightly disappointed. Not because it was bad, but because her debut was so brilliant and Tough Love just didn’t reach the dizzying heights that Devotion did. The interesting combinations of different genres that were obvious in Devotion just don’t seem to appear in Ware’s second release, which is, ultimately, a pop album. Although some of the tracks on this sophomore record are just as dazzling as ‘Wildest Moments’ and ‘110%’, the album as whole just doesn’t support them the way Devotion did.
It’s a great album with some excellently written songs; but after a dazzling debut Tough Love felt a little flat.
Tough Love is out on PMR Records / Island now.