Release Date: Oct 20, 2017
Record label: Interscope
Thematically, it was a collection of love songs, heavily imbued with sex appeal, that spoke to where Ware was in her life at that time - she married her childhood sweetheart mere weeks before the album came out. Three years on, there's been some considerable change - not least the fact that she's now a mum. That's something that obviously inspired a degree of professional insecurity, with Ware having talked about how she tried to rush the record for the sake of having something out.
On the front cover of Glasshouse, Jessie Ware is pictured emerging from the courtyard of the Neuendorf House on the island of Mallorca, off the coast of Spain. The modernist villa, designed by architects John Pawson and Claudio Silvestrin, is less a house than a series of walls that give shape to different kinds of space: long hallways that open out onto a tennis court and a rectangular pool, the ceilings in the interior partially deleted to let long rhombuses of light in. The photo is not exclusively focused on Ware and the shadows pooling around her; the eye is drawn as much to the soft, ruddy brown of the walls or the blue sky packed into a crisp rectangle above her.
Sometimes as human beings, we enjoy indulging in the melancholic. Looking out over a grey London town with Jessie Ware's new record Glasshouse for company, it feels enhanced by the sulking skies. The South London songwriter has built a career on emphasised emotion, heart-wrenching early singles 'Night Light' and 'Sweet Talk' offered a new perspective on the age old topic of love and relations; her silky tones more reminiscent of artists such as Sade or Neneh Cherry than the conventionally polished vocals associated with chart pop.
The indie world doesn't exactly embrace sentimentality. There's emotion, sure, and lots of it, but it's often more on the side of heartbreak and depression than the side that celebrates love found, loyalty, and devotion. Perhaps it seems too easy to swing for the fences, to make a bid for big, relatable, emotional sentimentality. That quality is more usually reserved for big pop ballads and the adult contemporary station.
An ode to Jessie Ware's husband, Sam Burrows, and the impending arrival of their first child, “Sam” is a simple song—albeit one with six co-writers, including Ed Sheeran, credited alongside Ware—but suffused with tremendous emotional complexity. “It's just Sam, my baby, and me,” Ware sings atop a wash of synthesizers and plucked acoustic guitar, the emotion palpable in her mezzo-soprano voice. The poignancy is enough to level you, coming as it does after a string of pleasant but mostly homogenous midtempo pop tracks on the English singer-songwriter's third album, Glasshouse.
Jessie Ware's third album is packed with finely woven adult-pop ballads about lust, longing, commitment, and reassurance -- all traits shared with Devotion and Tough Love -- but it couldn't have been made at any other point in the artist's life. The singer and songwriter aimed to complete it by the time she gave birth to her daughter. After some critical straight talk from collaborator Benny Blanco, Ware scrapped an unspecified amount of new material and finished Glasshouse after her daughter was born.
F ollowing two albums of understated soul-pop that tickled the Top 10, Glasshouse feels like a pivotal release for Jessie Ware. Stomping lead single Midnight and the Latin-flavoured follow-up Selfish Love hinted at a more robust sound, while windswept ballad Alone is X Factor montage soundtrack gold. Elsewhere, however, it still feels a little too safe, with only the closing Sam - a disarmingly heartfelt ode to her husband - forging a true emotional connection.
E merging at the tail end of the dubstep movement, south London's Jessie Ware has long been the musical equivalent of a minimalist Scandi clothes store, all restrained vocals thoughtfully draped over barely there electronica. On Glasshouse, she manages to harness her rarely seen diva mode in among the pared-back hallmarks, but the result is a mixed one. Opener - and lead single - Midnight sees her push her vocals in all directions for striking falsetto-propelled soul, while Selfish Love capitalises on the current Latin pop trend in pleasingly classy fashion with no clunky attempts at Spanish.
Over the past seven years, Jessie Ware has built up a stellar reputation as a critically lauded pop singer always on the cusp of breaking out. The London singer got her start in post-dubstep, working on EPs and collaborations with producer Sbtrkt, alongside another beloved British singer, Sampha. She then struck out on her own with the assured R&B album Devotion, which alongside Channel Orange and Kaleidoscope Dream served as part of an alternative renaissance in the genre in 2012.
Over the course of five years, Jessie Ware has been responsible for some total gems. Subscribing devoutly to all things soul-inflected and minimal, 'Running' and 'Wildest Moments' stand out as particular highlights, delving into darkness with a propulsive simplicity. She's also been at the helm of a fair bit of fodder over the years, too; classic beige ballads that soar perfectly to the high notes, but otherwise express very little besides universal notions of torturous love, and vague, unspecific heartbreak.
No one does tasteful better than Jessie Ware, for better or worse. A few years ago, Ware’s signature song was " Running ," a startling track somewhere between dance and Sade, with a lush, insistent sequencer line and a Disclosure remix that jumpstarted both artists’ careers. These days, it’s "Say You Love Me," a traditional torch song, complete with gospel choir, that with minor adjustments for production could slot onto any adult-contemporary playlist of past 40 years.
Jessie Ware's third album 'Glasshouse' promised to break the glass ceiling, but instead finds the singer treading lukewarm water. Taking time off after having her first child, the South London singer returned to the studio last year, recruiting a broad spread of collaborators that veer from pop talent Nina Nesbitt to The Invisible's Dave Okumu, dance don Two Inch Punch and two (ex) members of The Maccabees. Sadly, 'Glasshouse' isn't quite as varied as its stellar cast might suggest.