Bar a few dreary ballads, Glynne's debut record is a success.
When Clean Bandit released chart topper ‘Rather Be’ in 2014 Jess Glynne’s career was changed forever. In the 18 months that followed Glynne had a further 4 number one singles, both as a collaborator and a solo artist, so whatever happened, this album was going to do well; but does it deserve the success it would surely garner? Mainly, yes.
I Laugh When I Cry is full of striking production and song writing. The influences vary from track to track, ranging from motown and gospel (‘Ain’t Got Far To Go’) to military rhythms (‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’). Of course, this plethora of sounds can make the record feel incohesive at times. One example is the introduction, ‘Strawberry Fields’, which is a lavishly produced 80 seconds of electronic whirs and hums. It was an arbitrary choice, especially for the opening of the record, as what follows is a buoyant, melodic pop record, not a resonant 60 minutes of electro, which is what you’d expect from ‘Strawberry Fields’; but this is the only real source of disjunction throughout the album.
What Jess Glynne does well, she does excellently. It is no surprise that the fizzing ‘Hold My Hand’ and ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’ both topped the UK charts. They’re vibrant, up-tempo pop anthems, with nauseatingly catchy choruses. Parts of the record follow in this vein, like the piano hit ‘Ain’t Got Far To Go’ and hand clapping ‘Gave Me Something’; but at other points Glynne and her team of producers and songwriters seem to have lost traction.
The ballad, ‘Saddest Vanilla’ is like a British summer: dreary. The track drones on, and even the collaboration with fellow British songstress Emelie Sande can’t lift the monotony. The record’s other ballad, ‘Take Me Home’, is only mildly better. Both the songs sound like warbling X Factor performances, which is disappointing as Glynne clearly has much more to give. Throughout the album, the one thing that consistently stands out is her vocals. Where melodies could have been boring, her licks and runs make most of the tracks a delight to listen to, which is why it’s peculiar that these slower songs with more emphasis on vocals are so disappointing. It could be that ballads just don’t work for Glynne, or the song writing wasn’t up to scratch on these particular songs, but either way they don’t compare to the rest of the stellar record.
Skimming over the handful of disappointing songs, Glynne’s debut record is a triumph. It’s not cutting edge, nor pushing the boundaries of what pop music should be, but it’s a sound release. With crunchy piano chords, disco riffs and her distinctive vocals soaring over each of the 14 songs it cements Glynne as a burgeoning pop superstar. It’s only up from here.
I Laugh When I Cry is out now via Atlantic Records.