I never expected to be listening to the second album by Jessie Ware - not due to anything that Ms Ware has done, just her music is not the sort of stuff I go for on a regular basis. As I stated on the review of her first album 'Devotion' (Cleverly linked here) that she would be an artist to watch for, but she had been a little ambitions with her first album. After that album I was not too sure if she would end up being an artist that releases one record and then drifts into the either; but this has not been the case, she has been going from strength to strength. Many musical websites and publications are in love with her and this album (there has been a few negative reviews as well if the truth be told, but that is the way it goes sometimes). Now whilst my first review was back in the days before I started to look at each track, I was still quite proud of it. Mainly due the fact it had introduced me to an artist who could possibly make an exciting album which was outside my normal musical spectrum. It also gives me another chance to look at an album which has multiple producers and see if my well kept prejudges against this type of practice is to be changed. Let’s see if this is the album that delivers Ms Ware's early promise and how this multi-produced album fairs.
Opening the album is the title track "Tough Love"; it is a minimalist pop with a basic electronica background. For what it is, I cannot find fault with the song. It is not the most exciting of number, it is a little moody, sedated and seems to be aiming for a more friendly Lana Del Rey crowd; you know - the sort of heartbreaking pop that can be played in the background but without twerking or naked wrecking balls. "You & I (Forever)" follows on, the mood is still firmly in the moody camp and there is little chance of sunshine to delight the listener. What you get here is a heartbreaker of modern pop, performed beautifully and Jessie Ware sounds as if she is in an emotional crisis. I am not feeling any of the charm that was first promised by Ms Ware on 'Devotion', but it is also not a bad song. It is just a little empty inside. "Cruel" is the third track and at this point I am feeling like I am hearing the same song, but with a glorious layer of strings draped over the top of the number. I will be honest, there is not much variation to what has been played so far on this album; but it is a really well crafted piece of pop music. It does feel different to the rest of the album and for the better; still it feels like a bleak and dark song. "Say You Love Me" is a song which might either be a passionate plea for someone to become a lover or the sound of unrequited love dying, either way it is delivered with the same level of happiness that you find in a rainy sea-side town on a Sunday. It is well played again, you cannot deny that. But I feel like this was done before in the 90's by artists such as Dina Caroll (who ironically wrote a song with a similar title - this is not a cover of that track, this one was wrote with Ed Sheeran (no idea if he plays on the track)).
"Sweetest Song" is the fifth song on the album, which seems to be incredibly confused indeed. Once again, musically it is a dark slice of pop which does not match the lyrics that are quite romantic and (as the title hints at) sweet. It is a baffling piece of music that is both moody and romantic, but without really do either style any justice. "Kind Of....Sometimes....Maybe" is a song that makes me wonder who was in charge of quality control here. In terms of music, it is more of the same and you will know what the rest of the album is like; it is also the first song on the album that does not have a redeeming feature. It is as lyrically apt as the standard of prime Stock, Aitken & Waterman pop without the music to make it something to chuckle at. It is dull and that is something that I say with any pleasure as Jessie Ware is better than this type of song. "Want Your Feeling" is a vast improvement, but that is not hard if I'm honest. The Jekyll and Hyde feeling of the album is still on show here, this is the first song which musically is a little more cheerful (still moody), but lyrically it is dark and heartbreaking. I cannot decide if it is a work of mania coming to the foreground or just a mix and match approach of the producers. "Pieces" is firmly in the depressing and dark section of the album, which forms about 90% of the album. But it is one of the better songs on the album, it is the biggest number of the album and apart from one strange high-pitch noise it showcases the good parts of Ms Ware.
"Keep On Lying" is awful; it sounds like the demo for a keyboard with someone singing a tune of their own making that has no connection to the song underneath it. The singing itself is actually better on this track than it has been for a lot of the album, but the music is truly dull, uninspiring and has no connection to the rest of the album. There is a brief part of the song where they go a capella and it sounds so much better for those brief seconds. Penultimate track "Champagne Kisses" is much better, this sounds like a chill out anthem in the making; it is relaxing and surprisingly it is also has a massive sound. It feels more alive than most of this album and you would be forgiven for thinking that someone had changed the record at this point; I hope that Jessie Ware has more songs like this one in the future. Ending the album is "Desire", now for me I would have swapped the last two songs as "Champagne Kisses" is the stronger track and has a much more positive spin; "Desire" though is still a very good song, it attempts to have a big ending. But it is done without much in the way of music; it is as minimal as a few of the opening tracks of the album. This is probably why it has been picked and the performance is still good.
It has been a long time since I have heard a supposed mainstream album this confused and conflicted, without the sound of a fuzzy guitar in sight. This album is decent, but it does not quite showcase Ms Ware in the best way. Too many cooks in the kitchen - ie - get one producer who can work an artist and then release the album. A few of these numbers are not worthy of that voice, a few of these numbers could have been classic and there is some gems in the rough on this record. But overall the album is much like 'Devotion', it shows that one day Jessie Ware will hopefully release something as good as her natural abilities. This album was not that record.
5.5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
You can visit the Jessie Ware website here
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is a link for our Deezer users to listen to the album