Call it R&B, call it soul or call it pop music. When it comes to the music of Jessie Ware it does not really matter. What is important is the ability of this uber talented British artist to cross these often constricting musical boundaries with an album of pitch perfect songs every bit the match of her Mercury nominated 2012 album "Devotion". Her recent performance on Jools Holland showed a confident performer growing in stature and this album pushes the Ware "vehicle" forward in just about every musical direction.
The lead single "Tough Love" is a slinky smooth ballad where Ware emotes a wonderful vocal of restrained power. Even better is the pulsating pop of "Cruel" the sort song that Prince used to write before he rose at breakfast until he more latterly decided to flood the market with soulless funk. This reviewer cannot claim to be the number one fan of Ed Sheeran but the co written torch song "Say you love me" which is a sterling effort (although you suspect its fate might be eventual mutilation by some teenage warbler on the X Factor). Never-mind, onwards and upwards, with what might be the best song on the album "Kind of...sometimes...maybe" the sort of track that could see her creating a vinyl shortage especially in the US. The big power ballad "Pieces" also impresses greatly with the best Ware vocal on the album where she moves from the understated to emotive with real vocal dexterity. "I want your feeling" the dance floor track produced with Dev Haynes is the most uplifting song on "Tough Love" and real hit single material, yet it is the erotic R&B of the pounding and angular shapes of songs like the excellent "Desire" which impress most.
In "Tough Love" Jessie Ware has staked a claim to be right up there alongside artists like Banks and FKA Twigs. Granted she is neither as sultry as the former or as edgy as the latter but that does not diminish her stature since she outshines both when it comes to an acute pop sensibility. She has recently been working with the critically lauded brother producer combo "Disclosure' and the cutting edge wunderkid SBTRKT so expect more experimentation in the future. For now however just languish in the grooves of a special album by a sparkling addition to the ranks of British female soul singers.
Review by Red on Black