Review : Jessie J - Who You Are
BbcIt’s all well and good having a multi-octave voice, but without control it’s an accident waiting to happen. Jessie J – born Jessica Cornish in Redbridge – rushes up and down her scales on this anticipated debut album; but there’s more than one occasion where her fluctuating pitch is a pain in the ear.
The frustration doesn’t end there. As evidenced by her breakthrough debut single, Do It Like a Dude, Cornish has an annoying habit of inserting zany tics where songs would benefit from being played straighter (one Ke$ha is quite enough, thanks). A pretty acoustic ballad, Big White Room – recorded live, applause included – is ruined by unnecessary gymnastics. A shame, as when she’s not overreaching Cornish showcases sweet, if unspectacular, vocals.
The songs of Who You Are are expectedly split between slower, slushier affairs and punchy anthems for bolshy teens, those coming to this collection off the back of Do It Like a Dude. If modern pop-lore is to be believed, said track was originally written with Rihanna in mind (Cornish has a background in co-writing material for other artists). While the decision to keep it makes it clear Who’s Laughing Now (more bad-attitude swagger), it’s a lightweight Rude Boy rip-off masquerading as confrontational thug-pop. Hearing a BRIT School girl from London’s suburbs deliver lines derived from Caribbean slang is uncomfortable, and in terms of female empowerment the lyrics make Alexandra Burke’s Broken Heels sound like Independent Women Part 1.
Mamma Knows Best brings a big-band-trapped-in-a-synthesizer sound to the fore, more Pixie Lott than Ain’t No Other Man-period Christina Aguilera. Better is the following L.O.V.E., which walks the line between affecting and aggressive superbly, Cornish’s snarl balanced by a tender side that rarely makes an appearance; if one could squint their ears, it’d be a ringer for something from The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (and that’s serious praise). The title-track returns Cornish to an acoustic accompaniment, and makes for a fine closer – it’s her Hometown Glory, without the raw emotion but touching nonetheless....full text
GuardianMuch is riding on Who You Are, released a month early to capitalise on the top 2 success of Jessie J's first two singles. But if any singer has the potential to be the British Katy Perry or Pink, with the accompanying millions of sales, it's her: this album brims with infectious, Americanised songs, delivered with a confidence money can't buy. It's very much a record of two halves, though, and the swaggering uptempo tracks – the ubiquitous Do it Like a Dude and Price Tag, along with the big-band-styled Mamma Knows Best and a crunchy piece of minimalism called LOVE – are vastly superior to the ballads. Jessie once lived in Los Angeles, and on the ballads it shows: Who You Are is a self-empowerment dirge similar in theme to Lady Gaga's Born This Way, and Big White Room is a bit of overcoming-adversity-through-hitting-warbling-crescendos foolishness. Divested of the slowies, this would have been a fine pop record....full text
PopmattersAll the way back in January, Jessie J came out on the top of the pop pile in the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll. In doing so, she trumped artists like James Blake (who came second), Jamie Woon (who came fourth), and Warpaint (who didn’t manage to make the illustrious top five). Now, everybody in the world realises that this list is a commercially-motivated excuse for Britain’s music critics and industry figures to whip their know-it-all noggins side to side. But they don’t always get it right. After all, who remembers the Dead 60s, who came seventh in 2005? How about Kubb – ninth in 2006? The Rumble Strips, surely. They came tenth in 2007. No? Thought not. The sheer arbitrariness of the list defies the gravity of belief, and it’s clearly been mismanaged this year.
Jessie J is from the badlands where North East London eventually crashes into Essex; a maelstrom of sacrificed consonants and speed garage. She’s sort of a veteran—singing since the age of 11 and hustling towards a professional career since about 2005. After Gut Records went bankrupt, she was left in a music industry no-man’s-land. In these terms, at least, her fate is not unlike that suffered by Robyn for years and years. But, since then, she has managed to pick up the pieces of her career, writing “Party in the USA” for tween queen Miley Cyrus and various tracks for man’s man (read: professional woman-beating, room-trashing, domestic violencing misogynist) Chris Brown.
Who You Are, Jessie J’s debut album, features material recorded between 2005 and 2011, a production team who have already worked with Pink, Fergie, and Sugababes, and two singles that reaches the UK Top Ten in “Do It Like a Dude” (which reached #2) and “Price Tag” which got to number one and which features genre freegan B.o.B. Unfortunately, though, for an album with such a name, it seems to have little idea of what’s going on. Is it a pop album aimed at bratty teenage consumers in McDonalds bling? Is it an R&B album meant to display Jessie’s trumpet-like oesophagus, fulfilling her post-BRIT school pop-star destiny? It attempts to present a convincing case for both, but ends up as a largely jumbled, bitchy brew of pop tunes hollered with a loutish scowl....full text
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