Jessie Ware: Tough Love (Pmr/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Jessie Ware

Tough Love

Pmr/Friends Keep Secrets/Interscope

Oct 24, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

On her debut full-length Devotion, Jessie Ware achieved something many of her contemporaries still crave. The record’s sound was unquestionably pop with a hint of soul, yet unlike Adele, its highly polished laments retained an air of credibility with discerning indie listeners. Much of Ware’s positioning was due to handpicked collaborations with breaking U.K. beatsmiths SBTRKT and Joker. She was pitched as an antithesis to the swelling gossamer vocalists straddling the charts at the time; an edgy, honest, and gritty voice amidst 2012’s mainstream vapidity.

Tough Love finds Ware taking a subtle but definite shift in her sonic equilibrium. These are no longer numbers that could punctuate the dance floor just as readily as they could a late night smoke session. Instead, preened and purring cuts like “Keep On Lying” and “Want Your Feeling” shoot straight for the mid-30s dinner party market.

Whether this is a criticism depends entirely on where you stand. Ware remains a vocalist of class. Her airtight, porcelain intonations float across the string-soaring R&B of “Cruel” with heart-melting tenderness, while she turns “Pieces” into a withering, tear-jerking anthem of real maturity.

But where she was once allied with London’s tastemakers, today she joins pop artist of the hour Ed Sheeran in the anodyne Whitney-lite ballad “Say You Love Me.” Her off-kilter stance on traditional soul-pop helped her stand out from the crowd. Now, it’s hard not to think she’s content playing the part of another pretty, predictable voice.

Ware may convince most listeners during more brooding, sensual moments. “Sweetest Song” and the title track, in particular, provide dark canvases on which she splashes genuine flourishes of emotion. Whether these are enough to bring her to the mainstream remains to be seen. An appetite for success could well be Jessie Ware’s undoing. (

Author rating: 5.5/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10


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