Stop me if you’ve heard this before: a soulful young singer emerges from London, backed by impressive production, turns out one of the year’s most memorable melodies—an anthemic track that’s at once poignant and powerful—and soon (although a bit reluctantly at first) becomes pop star and a critical and popular music darling in the process.
Jessie Ware and her debut Devotion have the potential to accomplish all of the above. It’s an album that could should propel the former background singer to an Adele-like stratosphere.
She can take a seemingly simple song like “Wildest Moments” and turn it into one of the year’s best records. Both wistful and optimistic, nostalgic but forward-looking, the tune not only earworms, but owns such a propulsive message, it could achieve “Rolling In The Deep”-like cultural permanence. It’s that good. Armed with a voice that’s strong and cutting (like on “Something Inside”), production that’s soulful (“Sweet Talk”) and forward-thinking (“Still Love Me”), and the strength to carry it all off, Ware emerges as a star ready for her close-up.
Devotion sits favorably along the line of diva-dom a of Sade, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson, always gliding and meshing with her backing production to form a fusion of futuristic R&B and modern forward-thinking production. With “110%”, Ware showcases an ear for collaboration and genre-stretching possibilities that portend well for the singer’s future. The beat would not sound out of place on a UK bass track and points to a potentially interesting direction for the popstress—like her past collaborations with producer SBTRKT or Joker—if she chooses it.
Perhaps that’s the most impressive things about Ware’s debut. It is almost fully realized as is, but asks so many great questions of the listener – like what should pop music sound like? What will the future of R&B feel like? And what talent lies dormant within all of us if we just have the courage to pursue it – that Ware could choose any of number of possibilities for her next act and the music world will be thankful to hear it.
Put simply, Ware’s debut is startlingly wonderful. Prepare to hear more of her and from her, because in her wildest moments, she could very well be the greatest.