Jessie Ware - Devotion
Jessie Ware has proclaimed that she wants to be a pop star "in the classic sense," and in that context – influenced by the likes of Whitney and Chaka Khan – Devotion makes a lot of sense, but it's also about her own unique voice.
Her collaborations had already marked her out as a name to watch. Working on a raft of SBTRKT tracks as well as others such as The Joker's Vision, these were forward looking pop songs with large helpings of soul.
Now left to find her own voice on Devotion she decided that she didn't want the album to "feel too of now." It's this ethos – the idea of wanting to make something timeless – that highlights both the album's strengths and, sometimes, its shortcomings.
It's a record full of interesting ideas and rhythms, yet sometimes the inventive quirks of her mind seem reined in, the kinks smoothed out too much. It's when it takes elements of the now and melds them with the idea of creating something classic that the album really shines. Luckily, she manages to hit that sweet spot consistently throughout the album. It makes for a debut full of charm, personality and honest-to-goodness great songwriting and a mesmerising voice.
Working with Dave Okumu from The Invisible, who was a key part of making the album, she seems to be able to effortlessly mix invention and soul. 'Wildest Moments' is the perfect example of this. Its huge chorus raises the hairs on the back of your neck but its percussion and inventive rhythms give it an edge. Another single, the sultry, skittering '110%' also manages to sound gloriously like both the past and the future, with its breathy vocals and beautiful simplicity.
'Taking in Water', a song about her brother, is a ghostly optimistic torch song with 'woah, woah woahs' sighing in the background. 'Still Love Me' is great with its soulful beats and splashes of metallic synths while 'Night Light's' sweeping orchestral sound and piercing vocals also works well.
Yet songs like 'No To Love' worryingly has touches of Love City Groove (to me at least, though I could be wrong) and 'Swan Song' emotes but is lacking a stick-in-the-head melody. Some of the lyrics also jar (On 'Night Light' she sings "Like a ghost I cannot see, you're the shadow behind me" which is veering on the Des'ree).
But these are minor quibbles for a debut that oozes elegance and charm and casts a bewitching spell. Devotion is a forward-looking, soulful pop record. A definite classic pop star in the making.
Purchase and listen
A photo review of Jessie Ware & Laura Mvula at Cambridge Junction by Valerio Berdini. [read more]