Jessie J - Who You Are
I have been a Jessie J fan for a while now. All it took was her singing "Mamma Knows Best" on the floor of her bedroom and I was hooked. Anyone who can sing with that much power whilst sitting on the floor AND make it look effortless gets my vote, no questions asked.
Then last fall a friend of mine sent me the single"Who You Are" and it took everything in me not get on a plane and sit outside of Jessie's studio to wait for her album.
I haven't looked forward to an album like I did with Who You Are in a long time. (Actually I was looking forward to Last Train to Paris. But that was when I thought Diddy was going to use the songs that I heard during Making His Band. However, since Diddy exists to disappoint, not one of the songs from the show made it to the album. Instead, he punked out and made a quasi-radio friendly, Thunderpuss remix, hip-hop/dance that's popular but in no way innovative album...Ask me how I really feel about Last Train to Paris.)
So you know I was absolutely geeked when Who You Are hit my inbox last month. I completely broke work protocol and downloaded it to a flash drive so that I could listen to it immediately. I was expecting an album full of bangers and ballads by a truly great singer.
The album is so....average. Don't get me wrong, there are some great songs on it. But most of the songs that I like are the songs that I already know. Aside from "Who You Are" and "Mamma Knows Best", there are a few stand out tracks. "Who's Laughing Now" is the quintessential theme song for anyone who's ever had to deal with bandwagon friends. And "I Need This" is just a flat out gorgeous song that manages to marry great vocals with a searing guitar riff without being overpowering.
But while the album does a great job of showcasing Jessie's vocal prowess, there's not a lot about the writing that stands out. There is the overarching theme of being who you are and everyone is beautiful in their own way. And there are the obligatory songs about love and relationships. (I must admit "Abracadabra" is catchy as all get out.) But as a whole project the album seems scattered and almost feels unfinished. Even the sequencing seems wrong. (The live version of "Big White Room" should have come before "Who You Are." The tempo of the song is too slow to be in the middle of the album.) These aren't the songs that I would expect from someone who's written HITS for Miley Cyrus and Chris Brown. Based on the popularity of the youtube version of "Mamma" and the rabid fan base that almost instantly ensued, I expected the second coming of Beyonce. I wanted to push play and hear the best album of 2011. (That title is currently held by Adele's 21 in case you were wondering. "Turning Tables" will change your whole life.) Instead I was just significantly underwhelmed.
The popularity of "Price Tag" (which TRULY escapes me) and her dynamic stage performances will likely ensure a sophomore album. The fans that came to her shows months before her album dropped and knew all of the words to every song will insist on a 2nd album. If that's the case I hope she grabs the Ryan Tedders, the Drakes, and the Jesse McCartneys of the industry and makes the album that a lot of us were expecting to hear this go round. (In case you're wondering why I included him, Jesse McCartney co-wrote "Bleeding Love". You remember that song that was EVERYWHERE for MONTHS????) We're still waiting for the album that shuns safe and goes BIG. Because you either go big or go home.
But I'm still a HUGE Jessie J fan. You don't have to be a fan of someone's album to be a fan of them. Don't look at me like that. How many of y'all don't feel any kind of way about JC Chasez' solo project but LOVE him?.....Thank you. The girl can SANG. And she's fun to watch perform live. Never once have I felt my soul was in danger from watching a Jessie J video. Unlike Gaga who makes you feel as if you need to kill the fattened calf and mark your doors, windows, and remote controls with the blood of the slain calf Old Testament style, just to watch her videos. Jessie's performances are fun and she doesn't seem to take herself too seriously. She was the girl in school who never lived up to her siblings expectations. She was the girl who wrote songs for other people, while singing her heart out on the bedroom floor. She's tall, beautiful and most importantly TALENTED. She's got the tools she needs to give Beyonce, "LADY" She-who-shall-not-be named, and all the rest of those B and C level broads in the industry a run for their money. So it would be unwise to completely write her off based solely on a 1st attempt solo project. Especially one that's not a complete mess. A bit of fine tuning, a few exceptionally written songs, and some all out bangers and we might be seeing Jessie J REALLY having a Party in the U.S.A. (Yeah, Jessie wrote that.)