Jessie Ware’s ‘Devotion’: Album Review

Kathy Iandoli | April 16, 2013 5:50 am
The journey across the pond from the UK to the US is a long and arduous one. Artists are oftentimes considered to be “too British” for America — that is, until one single “translates” and they’re flung into the mainstream on these shores without a life vest. Jessie Ware didn’t necessarily have that problem. The British Pop cognoscenti that exists in America knew all too well that Ware was destined for greatness toward the close of 2011 when her buzz in the UK first began.

By 2012, it was a matter of the waiting game that Americans must endure before a Brit reaches Stateside a la Ellie Goulding, Florence + The Machine and even Adele. iTunes erroneously dangled the carrot in front of us back in August 2012, when Jessie’s debut LP Devotion was digitally made available, only to have it snatched from us in an effort to set a proper stage for Ware’s US arrival (Idolator still ranked it as one of 2012’s Best Albums). The time has finally come (the album is officially out today, ), and Devotion is here. For those experiencing Jessie Ware for the first time, her album is the beautiful love child of soul and dance. As for the Ware-wolves who have been following her since the beginning: congratulations. The rest of the world has finally caught on.

Even without hearing her say it in countless interviews, it’s pretty obvious that Barbra Streisand heavily influenced Jessie Ware. It’s not in an overly theatrical sense; more so in the depth of Ware’s vocals and the surprising control of her range. As the title track slides in, Jessie’s smoky vocals usher in a range of emotions that lie somewhere in between sensuality and heartbreak. Her breakout single “Wildest Moments” follows, and with it comes the reminder that Ware bridges that gap between the soulfully sad Adele and the fair-weathered friends of America, Girls Aloud. She’s neither too soul nor too pop. She’s perfect, and while her remix to “Wildest Moments” with A$AP Rocky is one of two additions to the US release, it arguably wasn’t necessary. She didn’t need the rapper of the moment to lure fans in. Her captivating vocals do enough of that already.

Sure, there are some songs on Devotion that gently miss the mark; “Still Love Me” being one of them. Jessie’s vocals flip-flop all over the lopsided production, leaving an uneven track. Other tracks like “Swan Song” show Ware falling victim to her own talents, as her voice is such an elixir that at times it’s almost too smooth.

Her biggest asset next to her voice is her production, and when balanced, the result is immaculate. The change in “Night Light” is like a switch in eras, where Ware jumps into the sultry side of the ’80s once the hook rolls around. Other songs like “No To Love” and “Sweet Talk” utilize hip-hop-skewed basslines to jump genres, along with the ode to Big Pun “If You’re Never Gonna Move” (formerly titled “110%” on the UK version of the LP), which is reminiscent of Kelis’ dancey days (think “Millionaire”). “Something Inside” is whimsy yet sexy, just like the disco-meets-’90s torch single “Imagine It Was Us” (the second new addition to the US version) that follows. While most artists suffer when they bounce around genres, Ware succeeds, offering many dimensions to herself and her sound on her debut.

There is a constant influx of flash-in-the-pan talent from the UK that reaches American soil and wows the audience with a “new” take on pop music. Jessie Ware is not of that ilk. Devotion is proof that what Jessie Ware has is staying power, enough to perhaps be the Babs to some new female artist several decades from now. Whether she reaches an Adele level of adoration from the Americans or falls somewhere in everyone’s Spotify playlists, Jessie Ware will be a part of our audio presence for quite a while.

Best Song That Wasn’t the Single: The title track “Devotion” is a nod to throwback soul, channeling every breath Sade is willing to offer.

Best Listened To: Wading in your neighbor’s pool at dusk while he’s away, after filling out several HowAboutWe dates in the hopes of falling in love and breaking up to really feel this song properly.

Idolator Score: 4/5

Kathy Iandoli