Tuesday, December 4, 2012

#136: Jessie J - Who You Are (2011)

It's refreshing to see a pop artist who writes their own music. Jessie J got her start as a writer, writing for artists such as Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus (Party in the USA). While neither of those artists are on my radar, I appreciate the fact that Jessie J has her stamp on this record - she's not recreating some else's. What drew me to Jessie J was two things: her song, 'Domino' and how unique she is. Stylistically she sets herself apart from the pack.

Price Tag
I'm still surprised this song didn't do better on the charts. Granted, it was her first chart topper and it débuted at #1, but it's a well crafted, feel good pop song designed to dominate pop radio. It's light, and it's fluff, but it's fun. The lyrics and message are worn out but the music breaths new life into them. It's got a reggae feel to it and regardless how many times you've heard it, it's fun to sing along to. B.O.B. is featured on the track and while I may not listen to rap, he makes me think about reconsidering. Usually rap breaks in pop songs are awful and jarring, however, here's it's natural and fitting.

I wish the entire album was more like this and 'Mama Knows Best'. I love the Maroon 5 type funk guitars and the piano is superb. The piano is sparse, think, and provides a lot of soul. Jessie J has got a set of lungs on her, she's gifted. While at times the album is clearly a "vocal album" where the vocalist is the absolute focus, Jessie J pulls it back on this track (well... for her). She has plenty of moments where she showcases her voice but she doesn't fill every moment with trills and vocal exercises. I think the reason I dislike some of the ad libs so much is because they remind me very much of Mariah Carey. I get it, you can sing really well. The real question is: what's more important, showing off your voice or making sure the song is the best it can be regardless of your talent? 

Now here's a chart that didn't do nearly well enough on the charts, it peaked at #6. This is one of the best pop tracks I've heard in a very, very long time. The guitar rocks, the drums push, and the vocals are incredible. This is the perfect setting for Jessie J's vocals. The feel-good-ish-ness of the track masks the crummy lyrics, but then again who cares? That's the point of pop radio, isn't it? This song is one of my dirty little secrets along with, 'Only Girl in the World' by Rihanna. They're just songs that I have no right to sing along with as loud as I do.

All in all, it's not really my cup of tea. At times her lyrics indicate either arrested development, accidental over generalization, or a desire to reach a very young audience. Then again, she was only 23 when she released this album. After listening to the album, I can say that the image that she portrays is not a façade. Her vocal style is just as unique as her style. There's no doubt she can write an amazing pop song, however, the rest of the album (other than the tracks above) failed to do it for me. A perfect example of it's duality is 'Who's Laughing Now', I absolutely adore the opening - it's unique, fresh, and endearing. However, the rest of the song is cringe worthy. Overall, it may not gel with me at times but she's very honest with who she is and that's something I can get behind.

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