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Jessie Ware Brings a New Sexy Back to Pop Music On Debut 'Devotion'

Alexa Girkout |
April 17, 2013 | 4:25 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

"Devotion" debuted to great acclaim by critics and listeners alike. (via Wikimedia)
"Devotion" debuted to great acclaim by critics and listeners alike. (via Wikimedia)
The popular music genre is plagued by pretty faces with over-produced voices that churn out regurgitated beats and songs that convey empty, trite meanings. The charts are littered with party anthems and the radio broadcasts lyrics that float in through the space between our ears but don’t resonate. 

Maybe that generalization pertains to American music. But now, London’s calling.

Enter Jessie Ware, a 28-year-old Brit who began her career as a journalist and landed backup stints lending her vocals to other musicians.

She’s been featured alongside SBTRKT and dropped a few singles and an EP. Now she’s put forth her debut effort “Devotion,” an album that manages to merge the past, present and—hopefully—future of pop.

Ware is a self-promoted “proper pop star”—per the bio provided on her website—and there’s certainly no contesting that. She evades the traps set by her predecessors, lamenting the woes of love in her smooth warbles without a trace of bubblegum heartbreak.

The raven-haired, doe-eyed beauty sings with poignant sadness and reminiscence, pining for lost lovers and better times. Undoubtedly, her maturity enables her to reach depths often uncharted by the mainstream.

With “Devotion,” Ware assembles a pastiche of genres that span iconic decades. Her ballads tap into the jazz era and skip through the peaks of the '80s and '90s, ultimately spilling out into the electro-synth present day.

Ware’s wounded honey voice acclimates to each sound, evoking Ella Fitzgerald and Sade. Her music sounds like it could be played through cigarette smoke in a lounge; its sultry subtlety could slink in the shadows and its unexpected power could puncture conversations.

On the title track “Devotion,” Ware, the seductress, emerges amid twinkling synth beats and a rich complex of electronic trills, begging not to be left in the dark. As the song progresses, the music envelops her voice, making her sound like a lost echo, reverberating off canyon walls in attempt to reunite with its source.

Ware smacks listeners with another standout single on the very next track with “Wildest Moments.” She’s tortured, caught in a complex relationship that has its peaks and valley and captures the way it can concurrently “be the greatest” and “the worst of all.” 

Her lyrics are simple, but don’t mistake that for a lack of sophistication. Her statements pack a punch, and when they stumble on “Night Light” (“You’ll be my night light / there when I go to sleep), she croons with conviction. Her voice oozes through the speakers and glides from track to track with a hypnotic consistency.

She hangs on themes of running and falling, which emphasize a vulnerable yearning for love (not just romantically) and a weakness to stoop in order obtain it. “If I made myself understood / would you treat me like you know you should?” she implores on “Still Love Me.” Ware exposes her insecurities in ways more singers should.

After a melancholy dip, Ware gets back at it on the last track “Something Inside.” “Let me run / Let me feel like someone,” she simpers over the soft tickling of piano keys as the song crescendos, picking up layers of swelling vocals just before the album fades out.

Jessie Ware feels like someone—and someone big.

Read more of NT's album reviews here.

Reach staff reporter Alexa Girkout here. Follow her here.



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