Jessie Ware // Devotion // August 20 // PMR
Clash have called London singer Jessie Ware as the missing link between SBTRKT and Sade. You know what? That pretty much sums everything up better than I could hope to. Ware has the rare touch for the subtle sensuality that can still make you feel like world is actually beautiful, be it the sunny dancefloor oriented 110% or the crooning Wildest Moments. Hear hear, she started out as a back-up singer. No worries though, Devotion is the real deal.
Too many people who start out singing on other people’s tracks end up lacking direction on their own solo material. There’s two paths that were ahead of Ware and while the one she chose might not lead to national success, we can all agree that she chose wisely. Devotion is smooth and sophisticated record that knows how to have a good time. Wildest Moments might still be the biggest hand raiser but it’s tracks that are stuck between the dancefloor and ballroom that are the best on here. Running and Still Love Me stick out instantly as some of the classiest pop music out this year. Ware has the goods to back it up. No To Love sounds like it belongs to Whitney Houston and Ware’s strong voice makes it her own. Devotion might not hide its 80s soul roots but at least it’s been updated for the post-dubstep generation.
While the opener and the title track and couple of other moments might have some references to her past success as guest vocalist for people like SBTRKT and Joker, Devotion is mostly old school stuff. Night Light in particular doesn’t feel like anything released this year. Its strings and electric guitar solo galore never bites off what it can’t chew. That’s one of the best things about Devotion. Ware has a brilliant voice, the instrumentation on here is just as good, but at no point does she feel like she’s showing off like the big voiced divas would do. People like Houston or Carey will take any chance to show off their vocal skill. Ware is much more clever than that. For an album that is as accomplished and grandiose as Devotion, the subtlety and euphoric approach to quiet storm almost makes this feel like a night time album. Sweet Talk in particular feels nocturnal, one of the tracks that bridges the 80s and the current decade with its pitch bent electric piano chords. By the time 110% comes in the later parts of the album it feels both as the most forward looking track on a well accomplished classicist album and a cherry on top of the best British album of the year so far.
Ware happened to go around things the right way. She collaborated with cool people and took her time with recording her debut LP. Time will tell what degree of success she achieves outside of the hip circles but make no mistake. Devotion is an assured record, something that was made by an adult who is in full control of her sound and direction. There was a chance that Ware could’ve became a victim of the New Boring scene. With Devotion she soars high above all the corporate soul wannabes. With Devotion she is no longer a guest, she owns the stage.