Release Date: Oct 14, 2014
Record label: Island
Though Jessie J's 2013 album Alive had several singles enter the U.K. Top 40, it did little in the U.S. J followed the rather bland, ballad-heavy set with Sweet Talker, a collection of songs tailored to regain her footing as a pop star in the States. At the very least, the album is a lot more energetic than the misleadingly named Alive: filled with cameos by American artists as well as collaborations with A-list producers, Sweet Talker is the flashy opposite of what came before it.
“Imma do it like it ain’t been done,” huffs Jessie J at the start of her third album. She’s doing it, all right – Bang Bang, her engaging three-way with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, has gone to No 1. But that song’s jazzy hook is one of too few doses of originality here. Percussive and pacey, Burnin’ Up (a duet with US hip-hop artist 2 Chainz) is another goer but as these 12 tracks go by, the quirks that made Jessie J’s previous albums notable have been replaced by the hugeness of failsafe producers; and she has taken a step back from the songwriting.
Jessie J recently announced a permanent move to Los Angeles, spurred in part by the British “not appreciating my voice”. She rather undermines her case, though, by appearing on the cover of her third album in bra and pants – as if that volcanic voice needs a helping hand after the relative flop of her last album. Further training her sights on America, she’s constructed Sweet Talker to fit a gap somewhere between Beyoncé and Pink.
“I’mma do it like it ain’t been done!” Get it Jess! In proclamatory fashion, Jessie J confidently utters those swag-laden words from the jump of her latest album, Sweet Talker. Ultimately, Sweet Talker plays like too many pop albums today – big and scattered. Like her contemporaries, there’s both 24-karat gold and then there’s pyrite, which may appeal briefly but fades, or misses completely.
The American arm of Jessie J's record company allegedly deemed the U.K. singer's 2013 album, Alive, unmarketable for U.S. audiences. It was an ironic turn of events given that the album was packed with the kind of midtempo pop tunes—produced by known hitmakers like Stargate and Dr. Luke—that ….
Jessie J is huge in the U.K., but she's never quite managed to break out stateside (last year's Alive didn't even get a U.S. release). "Bang Bang" – the omnipresent first single from her third LP – suggests she might finally be on the brink of a crossover. If she does, it won't be because she made a great album.
You can read DiS's acidic takedown of Jessie J and her 2011 debut Who You Are as smart aleck cage-rattling or a withering indictment of how homogenous modern pop/chart music has become. Three years on, things are even more grim. Sure, it's foolish to look to the charts for any kind of sustenance but there was a time when it wasn't all so obviously cynical.
Jessie J has enlisted an array of songwriters, producers, and artists du jour for this amalgam of club tracks, hip-hop inflected pop, and overwrought ballads, all aimed at maximum crossover appeal. More calculation than inspiration, the disc hardly showcases what makes the Brit vocalist special. J is an undeniably powerful vocalist with a disconcerting tendency to over-emote (“Fire,” “Masterpiece”).
Although R&B/pop starlet Jessie J is a massive superstar in the U.K., her U.S. profile is far more low-key. Part of that is due to industry shenanigans beyond her control; for starters, her last studio album, 2013’s Alive, wasn’t even released in America. But much of her underachievement here is due to a lack of creative innovation: While she’s a credible songwriter for other people—she co-wrote Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.”—her own music and vocals tend to be reminiscent of other pop artists.