Since Amy Winehouse’s victory in music, we have witnessed the invasion of British female singers on the world’s music stage. Duffy, Leona Lewis, Florence Welch and Adele are killing it on the music charts around the world (while Amy is sorting herself out at the rehab). To join forces with these pop tarts, here comes another hailing from London called “Jessie J”. Initially, to be honest, I assumed Jessie J was just another hip-hop chick who would stick around for a bit singing about bling-bling and gangsta-luving s*&#ts. Then I saw a video clip of her singing her heart out in a New York subway station on Channel V. Her colossal voice and her British accent immediately grabbed my attention and subsequently led me to her debut album “Who You Are”. I shouldn’t have judged the CD by its cover, right? And here’s the CD cover.
The album’s biggest asset is not the near-poetry song writing or lush music production. It is Jessie J’s enormous voice. Don’t expect her to hold back when it comes to singing. Jessie J, with Chaka Khan-like force and power, though not always necessarily soulful like Chaka, sings very high and very loud. “Mamma Knows Best” is a track where look-what-I-can-do vocals are full on display. The album title track “Who You Are” is a rousing anthem where she slays her vocals. (I very much prefer the live acoustic version) “It's okay not to be okay. Sometimes it's hard to follow your heart. Tears don't mean you're losing, everybody's bruising” lyrics sound a bit cliché and corny but it’s one of the better ballads on this album. Besides I feel that she carries the message with a very honest delivery.
“Price Tag” will see the concert-going crowd swaying and singing the lyrics “It's not about the money, money, money. We don't need your money, money, money. We just wanna make the world dance. Forget about the Price Tag”. Smart move! Stand by the poor people and you’ll go far. “Big White Room”, a favorite of mine, was written when she was only ten years old in a hospital. Her intense singing matches the heartfelt lyrics. “Sitting in the big white room alone. Close the door. Don't want the pain to come in. I clench my fist. And try to stay strong. I cry, feel sick. My heart is beating out of control. Can I run, run faster than you? I wanna feel my body again. Feel the wind in my hair, yeah. But I have to stay in this big white room,'Cause no one else cares”. “Who We Are” and “Rainbow” talk about self-confidence, anti-discrimination, social justice and equality. They all coulda shoulda become the new “Beautiful” or “Hero” but they didn’t simply because there’s already “Beautiful” and... “Hero”. Do we need more? Perhaps!
She shows a whole lotta attitude with “Do It Like A Dude”. It is of course an obligatory female empowerment anthem that every female singer must sing about nowadays. I particularly like her humorous approach and street cred in her song writing which makes it fun and relevant yet not sounding trite. Apart from these few good tracks, the other songs, though they are catchy and decent enough to make you dismiss the thought that they were merely fillers, are not that spectacular. Mixing of Caribbean sounds and hip-hop beats, anybody would agree, is not earth-shatteringly fresh. Channeling Bob Marley in “Stand Up” and “Rainbow”??? Not original, bad move! As much as I love the Halloumi cheese-like squeakiness in her voice and her soaring mammoth vocals, songs like “I Need This” and “Rainbow” find her voice going all over the place and out of control. She will need to find the right materials to put her glorious voice to good use. But then again, it’s only her first effort. First records are always about making a statement as loud as one could, right? Then Jessie has done well. I’m sure we’ll see more of her in the future.