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Jessie Ware picks some flowers and reclaims pop (article)

dontdiedontkillanyon Show me some love, you losers.Members Posts: 10,172 ✭✭✭✭✭
edited April 2012 in R&B & Alternatives
London’s strongest new voice sings a sad song that suggests the class of 2009 are about to reclaim pop for us all.

Text:Charlie Robin Jones


Jessie Ware’s Running was our third best song of the year so far, and her new single, 110% is just as wonderful, if not more so, and may, just may, indicate a new direction for pop.

Written by Jessie, a woman from London in her mid-twenties, and produced by Julio Bashmore, a Bristolian DJ a little younger, and shot by Kate Moross, it’s deeply indebted to the post-dubstep scene. Around 2010, all three were working in this world, Jessie working with SBTRKT on Nervous, Bashmore starting to show his pop colours with Batak’s Groove and Kate Moross designing sleeves for Zomby.

The song itself stems from that gaseous sound. There are the stuttering drums, soft-synth chords and hissing sound filling of the midrange, of course. But it’s more than that. What’s so thrilling about 110% is that play between tension and release, and softness and grit that was so key to the sound of 2010. Unlike much pop at the moment, which signals nothing other than its humongous, domineering POPness, 110% sounds subtle, confident and unhurried, unaware of expectation. Dubstep has alway been oddly coy music, especially for dance music, with a huge emphasis on listeners working through the beats to find the song inside. After a few years of wobble-bounce aggro (as fun as that can be), it’s nice that we’re getting back to where it began.

Beyond London dance music’s evolution, 110% speaks to where soul came from – love songs by people who mean what they sing. In Jessie’s world, the coy, unhurried, tension-release of London dance music and soul’s long, love-wrought heritage meet to devastating effect, and on the dancefloor. The club is such an institution in modern top 40 tracks, as is shagging, but it’s so rarely written about with emotional delicacy. So it’s refreshing to hear one recorded by someone who’s actually been in the middle of the floor, waiting for someone fit to look over, and it’s nice to hear desire sang about as it’s experienced. Lots of singers have sung about dancing by yourself – from Aswad to Madonna to Robyn – but none with the assurance and grace of Jessie Ware. 110% makes sex and desire sound as light and natural as those two things really are, which, in 2012’s blankly OTT pop world, is revolutionary. Clutch your hands over your heart, world, and sing. Behind this, one hundred and ten percent.



  • dontdiedontkillanyon
    dontdiedontkillanyon Show me some love, you losers. Members Posts: 10,172 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Jessie Ware
    Universal Island / PMR; 2012
    By Ryan Dombal; August 17, 2012


    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. She's capable of blasting the back window out with her voice, which consistently strikes blue notes somewhere between Sade and Whitney, but she holds back, well-aware of her unplugged environment. The performance is seriously moving, and yet Ware lets loose a few brief grins and a slight laugh, as if to say, "All this is quite ridiculous, don't you think?" And that's Jessie Ware: a devout realist making the most of her pop-star dreams-- and her commitment to both sides of that equation turns Devotion into a uniquely soulful masterclass.

    If you've half-slept through just one episode of a reality-television singing competition over the last decade, you're probably somewhat privy to Ware's trajectory. The one-time theater kid started out as a backup singer before nearly giving up her musical aspirations to be a journalist. But then, thanks to a montage-ready twist of fate, she ended up singing lead on melodic bass producer SBTRKT's 2010 single "Nervous", which led to a solo label deal, which led to Ware being forced to take the spotlight. But oftentimes backup singers are off to the side for a reason, and the hard truth is that's where they will be most productive; there are only so many lead roles in the world of pop. Considering her self-described "boringly sensible" outlook and the doubt pinging around her brain ("I had to get past the idea of, like, 'Who gives a 🤬 about what I'm gonna 🤬 write a song about?'"), Ware sounds more like a supporting player on paper. But then you hear her voice, and any and all limits start to fade into the distance.

    Singing over futuristic electronic tracks like "Nervous" and dubstep producer Joker's "The Vision", Ware sounded strong, but also somewhat overshadowed by the showy bleeps scurrying around her. Devotion, however, marries her natural gift with throbbing instrumentation that breathes life into every single turn of phrase or sensitive vocal embellishment. The tempos bounce lightly, the drama escalates, the synth-laden ambience cascades like so many postcard waterfalls. This is smoldering music, its smoke bewitching enough to make the original fire more or less irrelevant.

    The record was largely produced by three men-- Dave Okumu of UK art rockers the Invisible, Bristol electronic upstart Julio Bashmore, and singer-songwriter Kid Harpoon, who co-wrote songs on Florence and the Machine's Ceremonials-- each leaving his distinct mark without distracting from the whole. Okumu's tracks, especially opener "Devotion", are dark and dense, hinting at passion's underbelly with each deep bass hit; Bashmore's are more airy and upbeat, primed for classy dancefloors worldwide; Kid Harpoon offers the most festival-ready songs-- big hooks, bigger drums-- like "Wildest Moments". Tying the disparate sounds together are Okumu, who co-produced and played many instruments on nearly every track, and of course Ware herself, who co-wrote all but one song. Her voice is a marvel throughout, often gaining power by holding back or briefly teasing its scope while staying faithful to melody over melisma. Her words are in tune with this refinement as they chronicle the in-betweenness of love, dismissing easy pleasures for feelings that are more hard-won, confusing, and frightening.

    Take the most classically "pop" song here: the weightless "Sweet Talk", which modernizes Whitney Houston's late-80s effervescence à la Beyoncé's "Love on Top". On its face, the track is all endless dimples and mesmerizing lips, but then the verses sink in: "Don't keep me with the kisses, there's never any there when I need," pleads Ware. She knows she's going to fall for the smooth nothings once again, though, and lets the keys try to cover the inevitable regret, which plays out on "Running", where Ware starts, "Your words alone could drive me to a thousand tears." The title track, with its foreboding murk, gives whiffs of a seance as Ware asks, "Ready to love but do you want it enough?/ Can we find a way to bring it back again?" Given the track's perfectly rendered storm clouds, you get the impression she already knows the answers. The idea of running comes up often on Devotion, and it's clear that Ware isn't interested in the sprints-- when it comes to love, she's angling for a marathon. And she knows marathons can be really 🤬 tough.

    Talking about her childhood aspirations earlier this year, Ware told me, "It's so unattainable to be a singer. I'd watch 'Top of the Pops' and think I could never do that. And I didn't look like a pop star compared to the people I used to watch on MTV like J.Lo or Destiny's Child." As a middle-class Jewish girl from South London who's closer to 30 than 20, she's still nothing close to a cookie-cutter R&B breakout. Her success thus far-- and its likely continuation thanks to Devotion-- is a testament to both her talent and budding songwriting skills, as well as the wide-open field that is modern R&B, where a sensitive soul like Frank Ocean can make a star-in-a-box like Chris Brown look about as relevant as a dial-up modem. "I'm just having fun and trying to pretend I'm a pop star," said Ware, talking about her high-style videos. And while embellishment and theatricality is still a coveted and worthwhile pursuit within the pop realm, the beautiful thing is that, in 2012, Jessie Ware doesn't need to pretend more than anyone else.


  • dontdiedontkillanyon
    dontdiedontkillanyon Show me some love, you losers. Members Posts: 10,172 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Jessie Ware
    "Tough Love"
    PMR / Friends Keep Secrets / Interscope
    By Larry Fitzmaurice; June 16, 2014


    A few months after Jessie Ware properly arrived with her commanding debut album, 2012's lush, mature Devotion, she dropped a cover of 1990s R&B group Brownstone's "If You Love Me, a collaboration with production duo BenZel, who were then known as "Japanese teenagers". In actuality, the duo's a team-up between London post-bass producer Two Inch Punch and mega-producer Benny Blanco (Rihanna, Katy Perry), and the tricky pair have teamed again with Ware on her latest single, "Tough Love", along with handling executive producer duties on her forthcoming Devotion follow-up.

    Ware's cover of "If You Love Me" was, following Devotion's stately expressions of passion, a slightly different look for her sonically, and "Tough Love" continues in that track's direction, building on her previous record's sense of restraint while adding the faint glow of synths and echo-laden percussion that, if sped up a bit more, wouldn't sound out of place soundtracking Risky Business' "love on a real train" scene. "You have me cryin' out/ Cryin' out for more," Ware sighs as her sonic surroundings swell, then dissipate; indeed, the romantic gauze of "Tough Love" is an enticing taste while we wait to hear what else Ware has up her sleeve this time around.

  • EarPlug0128
    EarPlug0128 Members Posts: 282 ✭✭
    By far my favorite new R&B/Pop singer of this generation. Devotion was and is a solid album. Definitely looking forward to the follow up.
  • Stephen-r
    Stephen-r Members Posts: 420 ✭✭✭
    and she is so hot
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