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Jessie Ware: Devotion
An effortlessly glamorous debut with real heart
Celina Murphy, 04 Sep 2012
“Jessie Ware is a proper pop star,” the press release announces, with all the timidity of a flaming straitjacket, but the artist’s own views appear to be at odds with the record label’s commentary.
“I wouldn’t mind being a pop star,” Jessie Ware said in May, “but I don’t think I’m the right kind of thing.”
A former backing singer for Jack Peñate, best known as a featured vocalist on the eponymous SBTRKT LP, the 27-year-old Londoner is probably right. Instantly memorable for her manicured, ladylike style and scraped-back J-Lo hair, she idolises Barbra Streisand, boasts an encyclopedic knowledge of American R&B and makes a lot of slow, romantic gestures in her music videos. So, yeah, not exactly the tits ‘n’ attitude pop star we’re used to.
That said, there is something remarkably familiar about the Jessie Ware sound; a dreamy, amorous stream of mid-tempo electronica.
In fact almost everything about Ware reminds you of Sade, from the Brylcreem hairdo to the vocal theatrics to the sultry, ‘80s-sounding synth and guitar lines favoured on this album. Elsewhere, there are elements of Whitney Houston, Annie Lennox and Aaliyah, but Ms. Adu’s presence is paramount.
It’s pretty shocking that Jessie Ware has formed the foundations of a pop career by channelling an artist as untrendy and underrated as Sade. What’s even more surprising is that Devotion is, in very simple terms, every bit as good as Diamond Life.
Masterminded by producers Dave Okumu of London rock outfit The Invisible and the relatively unknown Julio Bashmore, Ware’s 11-track debut is a soulful, skilful, homogenous ride through the slickest hoots and honks in popular R&B, plus a few that we haven’t heard before.
‘Running’ is punctuated with heavenly electronic gasps, ‘Sweet Talk’ is halfway between dance pop and liquid funk, and ‘110%’ is playfully constructed around a looped male vocal and out-of-control drum machine.
Ware’s agile voice is sweet and buttery throughout, helped along by shimmering vocal echoes, bearing hints of Alicia Keys and Whitney, all in a gentle British accent.