Release Date: Aug 20, 2012
Record label: Island
Adele. Emeli Sandé. Lianne La Havas. The UK is a diva factory, churning out an endless stream of prodigious vocal stunners. Jessie Ware is simultaneously of this ilk and not: she lacks their histrionic bombast and forced universality. Her closest peer might be Katy B: they both translate the ….
This is not an age of great subtlety in dance pop, generally speaking, but just try telling that to Jessie Ware. As a featured vocalist on last year's SBTRKT album, the 26-year-old U.K. singer turned heads with her understated style. She perfects that approach on this set of elegant synth ballads, confiding hopes and heartbreaks in tones that command attention without ever chewing the scenery.
A handful of collaborations released during 2010 and 2011 hinted at Jessie Ware's range and potential. The singer outclassed her fellow vocalists on SBTRKT's SBTRKT and Joker's The Vision; she displayed exquisite restraint on the former's "Right Thing to Do," while she had her way with the latter's lancing title track. Along with the two low-key 2011 singles, "Valentine" and "Strangest Feeling," there were indications that Ware was capable of making something like Devotion -- an album of uncommon depth, a sophisticated but stimulating hybrid of pop, soul, and adult contemporary.
Jessie Ware is one of many female vocalists to rise to fame down to her feature spots, seemingly the go-to point for any budding young singer in the UK in 2012 (and 2011 and 2010 for that matter). But a lot of these vocalists stumble and fall at the first hurdle when they go for the dreaded solo record, simply because their feature spots protected them from the horrible truth that a solo artist needs to own their own record, rather than the producers shaping their sound. Clapham born Jessie was rewarded with a record contract after featuring on SBTRKT’s jittery bass anti-anthem “Nervous” in 2010.
Eight months after the release of her debut LP in her native UK, Jessie Ware is finally getting a proper physical release in America for Devotion with four bonus tracks added to the original recording and one track altered due to legal complications. As Ware is already able to sell-out venues of a thousand people and appear in the middle of stacked festival lineups, the impression is that her original release did not have trouble spreading in the States as solely a digital or import offering. Still, whether you are late to the game or not, Devotion’s repackaging is a chance to see how the album fares with a bit of refection and time.
Many of Devotion’s best songs—“Running,” “Wildest Moments,” “110%”—have been at large for months, so I’m willing to bet most of you reading any reviews of this album have already formed an opinion on Jessie Ware. And I’m equally willing to bet that you kind of love her. Ware’s charmingly humble in person, but able to slip into an outsized, dramatic persona without seeming insincere (remember when “diva” was more synonymous with “strength and confidence” rather than “egotistical?”).
To begin to understand where Jessie Ware is coming from, let's look at her stuck between an acoustic guitarist and an MPC beat pusher in the back of a London taxi. As part of the simple, self-explanatory "Black Cab Sessions" web series, the 27-year-old British singer recently took her place in the middle seat and proceeded to offer a nuanced live take on "Wildest Moments", a slyly epic ballad from her debut album, Devotion. In such tight quarters, she's not quite sure where to look-- at her bandmates, outside to the street, or directly into the camera-- her head on a controlled swivel.
Jessie WareDevotion[PMR Records; 2012]By Will Ryan; August 17, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetJessie Ware's beginnings are a bit misleading. I'm probably not alone in first making her acquaintance on UK garage, R&B-leaning producer SBTRKT's 2010 track "Nervous." Reportedly, the strength of that cut alone got her signed to her now-home, PMR Records. And she's since collaborated with other entrenched UK producers like Sampha and Joker.
Review Summary: love stinks, yeah yeahPredictably, Jessie Ware concludes Devotion by shying away. “Offer me something inside,” she says. “A place to go, a place to hide.” She’s been doing this all record, singing the shit out of gorgeous pop songs without reveling in them, avoiding cheesy goo as if it were a privilege she doesn’t think she’s earned.
Two years ago, on tracks like SBTRKT's "Nervous" and Joker's "The Vision," UK songstress Jessie Ware seemed like just another competent vocalist, catnip for dance tracks but lacking personality outside of the bulldozer force of her vocal cords. Fast forward to earlier this year and she released the stunning "Running" under her own name, produced in part by Julio Bashmore. That one was a Sade-styled crooner, all perspiring chords and sensually unspooling guitar, oozing a coy yet heartfelt nuance that her previous work lacked.
In 2010 Jessie was working as a reporter for the Jewish Chronicle and providing occasional backing vocals for Jack Peñate. She wasn’t even dreaming of being a popstar. Then she guested as a vocalist on SBTRKT’s 2010 tune ‘Nervous’ and everything changed. It sounded like something different ….
Jessie Ware's supple, soulful voice begs comparisons to her fellow U.K. contemporaries Adele, Katy B, Florence Welch, and even Jessie J. But for a more apt comparison, one needs to look a bit further back, and across the pond, to American '80s R&B, specifically Teena Marie and Prince. In fact, born a couple of decades earlier and Ware might have wound up as one of the latter's muses instead of getting her start guesting on tracks by EDM and bass artists like SBTRKT and the Joker.
When the path forked for Jessie Ware and she had to choose which direction to take her solo career, the girl chose wisely. Prior to the release of Devotion, to listen to Jessie talk about her evolution as an artist, you couldn’t help but feel that it happened by accident, rather than by design. So, it has been a pleasant relief to hear Devotion – which appears to be very much the sound of a woman refusing to kowtow to the pressures of the in-crowd and making the music that she hears in her heart.
Sophisticated, smooth and sensual, in the wrong hands Devotion could easily have been a footnote in the New Boring movement, that vibrant strain of youth culture that has already given us Emeli Sandé, Adele and Bruce Springsteen concerts that wrestle with the spacetime continuum itself. Yet Jessie Ware's debut album is saved by one fact: for all her album's poise and restraint, dance music clearly runs through this 27-year-old south Londoner's veins. A former guest vocalist for the dubstep-tinged likes of SBTRKT and Joker, Ware's teenage years were spent putting the graft in, researching her trade at drum'n'bass nights at Brixton's Mass.
The radio is going to try to ruin Jessie Ware for you. Give “Wildest Moments” one listen and the inevitability of it playing endlessly everywhere emerges pretty blatantly. It’s so obvious that you might consider telling yourself you’re pre-emptively sick of it, if it wasn’t so damn awesome (see: “Rolling in the Deep”). The instrumental simplicity is akin to “Bleeding Love,” from fellow British vocal powerhouse Leona Lewis.
When people talk about pop music, they usually mean the kind of three-minute songs that bounce around the upper reaches of the charts and teenagers like to play from their mobile phones on the top deck of the bus. Like any genre of music, there’s an awful lot of dreck out there, but there’s also some incredible stuff too and, with the exception of a few specialist websites and magazines aimed towards children, this is what tends to get ignored by critics. At its best, pop music is instant, addictive, exciting and ephemeral.
Having spent several weeks at number five in the UK album charts and received significant critical acclaim, including a Mercury Prize nomination, British singer Jessie Ware's debut is finally getting an official Canadian release. Ware (known for her vocal work with leading UK electronic producers such as SBTRKT and Joker) brings us an album that's the next logical step in bridging that already thin divide between UK bass, R&B and pop, following James Blake's crossover appeal and the wide-ranging influence of the post-dubstep scene. Over the course of 42 minutes and 11 gorgeous tracks, the songwriting and production, both utilising the skills of Dave Okumu (from the Invisible), are consistently on point.
The sort of sophisticated, soulful pop record that comes along all too rarely. Mike Diver 2012 Whilst she passed by several tipsters at the turn of the year, missing the BBC’s Sound of 2012 and the Brit Awards’ Critics Choice category, Clapham-raised Jessie Ware has been steadily growing into south London’s own Sade-in-waiting ever since her 2010 emergence. That breakthrough was as a guest on SBTRKT’s track Nervous, and Ware would collaborate with the masked producer again on his eponymous album of 2011, as well as with Joker on The Vision.
This album is like a transmission from a Bizzaro Pop-World, where SBTRKT’s subtle, melancholy two-step is what has been taken on board by the David Guettas of the world, not wub-wub bro-step; a world where the Jessie who scales our charts is not a judge on the Voice, someone who claimed to know how wheelchair users felt when she broke her leg - no, it’s Jessie Ware, classically-trained South Londoner with a love for Ella Fitzgerald as much as Sampha. ‘Devotion’ is future-pop. Well, no, it’s resolutely present-day-pop; but in an era where singers of Ware’s persuasion - soulful, powerful - are retro-fitted with smoky eye shadow and the Phil Spector drumbeat, these songs have more in common with the trendy R&S ilk.