Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Jessie Ware - Devotion

Who said pop music was a dead genre? I did... Jessie Ware is a pop artist in loose terminology. She combines soul, RnB and minimalism to create her unique and starlet tracks. "Devotion" is one of the few female albums in 2012 that happens to sound sophisticated. With XFactor churning out vocalists willy-nilly, you would be surprised at how hard it is for an independent singer-songwriter to make it 'big' in the UK. Adele is a perfect example, so is Amy Winehouse; it's a hard market to break into and Jessie Ware should congratulate herself just for getting this far. 

Devotion isn't a gritty album; instead it's a polished and persistent debut. Comparisons to Sade were expected, and I'm sure Ware accepts and acknowledges her comrades within the pop/soul genre. Like I previously stated, it's a hard market to break into. Her opener reminds me of "Bloom" by Radiohead. It's that twinkling keyboards and oddball percussion that gets me. It throws the listener off guard instantly and when the clear and effective bass line hits, everything is ready. Ware delivers a spectacular vocal. She doesn't need to raise her voice; it's all quite calm and relaxing. The following track "Wildest Moments" is an absolute blinder. The drum pattern is addictive and the bass riff only emphasises the 'catchy' factor of the track. Ware gives a vocal from the depths of her heart and in perfect pitch, melody, the lot. The refrain, "Maybe in our wildest moments. We could be the greatest, we could be the greatest. Maybe in our wildest moments. We could be the worst of all," is a spectacular chorus, a chorus that screams pop and 'chart'. It's a truly outstanding recording and the final third features layered vocals, a right sided plucked instrument and an outstanding finale.

"Running" begins the electronic aspect of Ware's music. The synthesizer riff set's the cold and calm atmosphere alight, whilst the second synth jab does its job. This is a sort of Seal soul, with lots of modern instrumentation. The most striking aspect of this song is the left sided guitar solo half way through. It's completely unpredictable and catches me every time. "StillLove Me" continues her established electronic sound. Ware's music is like a professional and matured version of Little Boots. There are lots of little aspects that all add up to create Ware's sound, one of them being the 80s bass riff and layers upon layers of snare drums.

The album doesn’t end with Still Love Me; it’s only just beginning. Many pop albums fail to achieve an 'album' status because of the 'filler' aspect. I have these words highlighted because they're very important when it comes to understand a generic vocalist and a talented singer-songwriter. "Who says no to love?" is the key lyric in "No To Love". Ware delivers the vocal as if she's speaking directly to each and everyone one of us. It's a question that is answered with the rap, "A life without you, forever I’ll be missing." These lyrics are self-explanatory and very powerful. And that’s a common theme with Devotion, "Night Light" being another example of a Ware / listener connection. It's a standard verse/chorus/ verse structure, but the lyrics are important to its success. Ware sings, "Like a ghost I can not see. You’re the shadow behind me." / "I wish he caught how this heart soul, shadow man. Will you come for me?" It has a straight forward melody and simplistic instrumentation, but it ticks all the boxes for a great single. 

"Swan Song" is one of the weakest tracks on the album. Don't get me wrong, the instrumentation is pretty and lustful, I'm just not a fan of this slow melody. "Sweet Talk" touches on 80s nostalgic ballad-like club music from Miami. It's retro and above all it’s sexy. The bass and keyboard are both very dubstep like in sound. They're sharp sounds and Ware's voice soothes the track, slows it down and swirls around for the final third. There's a dramatic guitar, layered vocals, some harmonies and a soft finishing touch, excellent. There is a regeneration of Ware's better tracks on the back side of the album, "110%" being another stellar track. It samples "TheDream Shatterer" by Big Punisher. The sample works in a sort of Kanye West-esque style, with Ware delivering a heavily effected and layered vocal. The synths and the heavy bass beat stand out on this track.

Possibly the most evocative track on the album is track 10, "Taking InWater". From the moment it starts, the listener is thrown through an experience of soulful pop music guided by Ware's vocal. it's like Frank Ocean and Sade mashed together, with a staggering chorus. Beautiful is a word everyone should use to describe this track, because it's absolutely breath-taking. It’s pop song of the year in my books. The album ends with "SomethingInside". It's not just the closer, it's the definitive track. The bridge reads, "Let me run, let me feel like someone." Ware finally utilises her powerful voice to layer and add harmonies with the bridge turned chorus. The verse does very little to this track, it's all about the refrain and boy does it stick. The delay guitar on the left reminds me of Braids and the right sided percussion isn't far off a Kate Bush A-Side. 

If Devotion is anything, it's a sign. It's a sign to United Kingdom that female singer-songwriters have not died out. Adele might be getting all the fame, but Jessie Ware certainly takes the skill, sophisticated and downtempo awards. There’s nothing I like better than an artist giving it all, regardless of genre and regardless of whether or not I like their music. Jessie Ware is that artist that gives it all. We've got something quite special in this lady, and one day we'll hear something out of this world from her. She'll probably take home the Mercury Prize Award, but if she doesn't, she will continue.


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