Jessie J Who You Are(Island Records) Buy it from Insound
If you are a UK pop fan who has not heard of Jessie J, the rising star who hails from Redbridge in London, then you’ve probably been hiding under a rock. Jessie’s profile is currently riding high in the UK after she was given the Critics’ Choice award at the 2011 Brit Awards. The award was created to champion new British talent, and (strangely enough) it’s been given to former students of the Brit School twice in its 4 year history.
Already established as a successful songwriter - her material has been recorded by the likes of Chris Brown, Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys - Jessie J’s biggest songwriting success is Miley Cyrus’ Billboard smash Party In The USA. Her debut, Who You Are, combines the Americanised pop of Natasha Bedingfield with the urban grooves of Gwen Stefani and the feisty attitude of Pink. The album kicks off with the radio-friendly sheen of Price Tag. It’s the catchiest song of this set, helped along by a reggae bounce and an anti-material-girl message. The summery, minimalist pop of L.O.V.E. is one of the other highlights along with the big band strut of Mama Know Best. The album’s first single, Do It Like A Dude, however, still sounds like it is missing something beneath the rude-boy swagger and playful bravado.
Unfortunately, this is an album of two halves as the stronger brat-pop moments soon give way to by insipid, dated ballads. Songs like Casualty Of Love and Abracadabra recall 90's Mariah Carey, but not in a good way. It’s great to see new British talent scaling the charts, but due to its patchiness, this is an album to cherry-pick from, rather than love. There are glimpses of promise scattered between the overwrought delivery and unnecessary vocal gymnastics, but knowing when to reign in the vocal theatrics is a skill which too many singers, Jessie included, overlook. Some subtlety in the delivery of these songs would have provided some welcome respite from the almost incessant vocal licks and mannerisms.
It will be interesting to see how her artistry develops as she matures. With a stronger set of songs, more interesting production and the less-is-more approach to unnecessary vocal gymnastics, Jessie J may well deliver a classic in the future. Unfortunately, this is not it. She’s still one to watch, but the hype which preceded the release of Who You Are promised much more than what has been delivered.6 March, 2011 - 09:59 — Gary McGinley