Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Jessie J - Alive

There’s no denying that J-J-J-Jessie J has one of the most remarkable vocals of our generation.  Unique and instantly recognisable, her vocal runs and stuttering diction are technically impressive – something she was keen to stress to her ‘team’ when she was a mentor on The Voice.  Yet it’s her tendency to over-sing each song, camouflaging the melody with riffs, that causes the emotion to get lost, spoiling what could otherwise have been a decent pop album.

It’s the lyrics that truly drag down ‘Alive’, however.  Of course, there's nothing wrong with feminist empowerment, but Jessie J stretches this to the point of preaching.  She tries so hard to be a role model to her female fans that it's to the detriment of her songwriting.  The result is upbeat "anthems" like Sexy Lady ("just be proud, you're a sexy lady") and saccharine ballads like I Miss Her.  Even one of the highlights, Gold, gets off on the wrong foot with its opening lyric: "everyone dies but not everyone lives, everyone takes but not everyone gives".  As Domino is testament to, Jessie J is best when she stops trying to change the world and just has fun.

And remember when, once upon a time, Jessie J broke out with Do It Like A Dude as an edgy, cool popstar?  Where did that go?  The closest we get here is Wild, which doesn't quite have the same personality.  Her refusal to swear in the chorus of Excuse My Rude not only makes little sense in the context of the song, but indicates a refusal to push boundaries she may once have stretched.  It's as if she's a female Samson, all of her songwriting strength lost along with her hair.

As a whole, then 'Alive' is a safe album from a talented artist who doesn't live up to her potential.  Even the album's highlights - the 80s synths of Thunder and the upbeat Whitney-feel of Daydreamin' - slot neatly into current trends.  As with her 2011 debut, Jessie J has 'the voice' but lacks the capacity and originality to truly show it off.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Thunder
* Daydreamin'
* Gold

Listen: 'Alive' is available now.