Album review: Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure?

Album review: Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure? | Random J Pop

When Jessie Ware had released "Overtime", "Mirage (Don't Stop)" and "Adore You" it was difficult to know the full direction in which Jessica was going with her upcoming album, and even if there would be one at all. But it clicked with "Spotlight". We were going to get a sexy Dance album. And even though none of the three albums that Jessie had released prior were anything of the sort, it didn't feel weird. It made sense. In fact, it's kinda wild it took this long for Jessie to do the damn thing.

Glasshouse was widely seen as a bit of a misstep for Jessie. Even though the album featured some good songs and Jessie's voice sounded the strongest it ever had, Jessie didn't feel as present on the album as she needed to be, and it didn't make the type of statement she needed to make with her third album. That ubiquitous Jessie Ware sound that we got on Devotion and Tough Love, also wasn't present. What's Your Pleasure? is a return to that energy, placing Jessie front and centre. Glasshouse? We don't know her.

What's Your Pleasure? feels like such a clean slate, that calling it a 'return to form' just doesn't feel right. Jessie has been reborn.

The sound of What's Your Pleasure? is a familiar one. Dance and Disco has been done numerous times before, Jessie herself has even done it. And yet this album manages to sound fresh and new. Partly because the songs are so well produced and Jessie owns the sound as opposed to it owning her, but also it features a nice amount of variety.

What's Your Pleasure? moves effortlessly between lavish Bond style Disco cuts, 80s funk, 90s Deep House and Motown. And it does so almost right out of the gate within its first four songs.

Album review: Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure? | Random J Pop

Album opener, the shimmering "Spotlight" is still as gorgeous as it ever was, and the album version brings forth some subtle changes; a slightly different opening, additional string arrangements, a longer refrain and an instrumental outro. These changes are small, but manage to take what was already a perfect song and make it better. My only criticism is that at 5 minutes, the song still isn't long enough. I wish Jessie and producer James Ford had gone full Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer and made it a 7 minute song with an extended outro.

The Moroder and Summer vibes hit full force with the album title track "What's Your Pleasure?" and it just oozes sex. It's like the love child of "I Feel Love" and "Love To Love You Baby", but with a far dirtier groove than the both of them. It's a complete 180° from "Spotlight" and lets you know early that this ain't the same Jessie you once knew. You best believe Kylie Minogue was on the phone straight away to her A&R after hearing this and that she is a little shook.

"Ooh La La" is old school funk. I wasn't in love with this song when it released, but it's grown on me in a big way on the album, thanks to a smooth transition from "What's Your Pleasure?" and it coming after two songs which threw the motherfucking gauntlet down. It's far more playful than we've ever heard Jessie before, and it's just a good-time type of song. Not one that I go straight to when I play the album, but I never skip it if I'm running the album from the top.

Then things get nastier with "Soul Control", which sounds like Gwen Guthrie meets Janet Jackson's Control. It's 80s R&B leaning Pop filth. This will having you shoulder shimmying, mimicking the blippity-bloop melody, whipping your imaginary Jheri curl from side to side and whispering ♪ Soul. Control. That's how you wan' it ♪ all damn day. And this is after two songs which already gave you infectious hooks.

The whole album pretty much jumps between these styles throughout its twelve track run like it ain't shit. The album opens so strong that you're almost waiting for the fall off, but it never really comes. The Disco vibes return for "Step Into My Life", which feels like "Spotlight" after a few drinks and a Drag makeover - sounding like a cross between a Bond theme and the soundtrack to a lavish throwback set piece from a Baz Luhrmann picture. We get sexy 90s sensual House in the form of "Save A Kiss". A seductive Sade style jam with "In Your Eyes", which is probably the only song on the album which sounds like an old Jessie cut, throwing back to Devotion's "Running". 80s R&B leaning Pop electric slides back into the mix with "Read My Lips". Another dark Moroder and Summer style Disco cut slides through with "The Kill". And then just when you think the album has given you everything, it bows out with "Remember Where You Are", which throws 60s Motown in your damn face out of nowhere. It's a lot to take in at first, because it is different from everything else on the album, it's different from anything Jessie's done before, it sounds so fucking gorgeous and you're also thinking 'if this was sped up, it'd sound a little like The Price is Right theme tune'. The song is sublime and has a great uplifting message to boot, with lyrics which also contrast with the rest of the album, because it's the only song which isn't about wanting to gets ta fucking. Jessica drops the damn curtain on us and closes out the album as strong as it started.

What's Your Pleasure? feels like a ride from start to finish, and it even manages to change my opinions on the singles, none of which I was a fan of with the exception of "Spotlight". But they work brilliantly when sat together amongst the other tracks and shine far brighter as a result. "Ooh La La" punches harder coming in between "What's Your Pleasure?" and "Soul Control", and "Save A Kiss" and "Adore You" sit beautifully side by side and then rolling into "In Your Eyes".

The only lulls are "Adore You" and "Mirage (Don't Stop)". These are by no means bad songs. It's just that the quality of everything else is so damn high that the lack of magic on both songs is all the more evident. There's a sense of 'this thing is not like the others' which I feel is because they're written and produced by different teams of people to everything else. I also get the impression that "Adore You" and "Mirage (Don't Stop)" may have been recorded before Jessie got into the studio full-time with James Ford and the full vision of the album started to take shape. Both songs still fit the overarching Dance theme of the album, but they lack the finesse of the other songs. The song structures aren't as tight. Jessie's vocals aren't as direct. The choruses feel repetitious in the worse ways. They are both pretty flat and don't take you on a journey like some of the other songs. The production isn't as rich. "Adore You" and "Mirage (Don't Stop)" would have befitted from a re-working so that they were tighter and felt like they were cut from the same cloth as the other songs. Or being left off the album altogether.

Album review: Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure? | Random J Pop

Production has always been a focus on Jessie's albums, and ain't shit different here. Sharp. Meticulous. Polished. Like her edges when she snatches her pony back. 90% of What's Your Pleasure? is produced by James Ford and he did an incredible job here. Every song feels rich, layered, textured. The mixes are perfect. Arrangements are perfect. Songs feels like they're evolving and end in a different place from whence they started. This album has the potential to sound incredible live. Give him his Grammys. And give Jessie the budget for an orchestra, diamond jewellery and a residency at the Royal Albert Hall. Make the live performances of the album sound as expensive as they do on the record. Give me opulence.

What's Your Pleasure? feels like a reclamation in more than just the sonical sense. In many ways, What's Your Pleasure? feels like the album that Jessie always wanted to make, but never felt that she was in a position to. Jessie came up through the Dance music scene, something which was easy to forget when listening to Tough Love and that third album. But What's Your Pleasure? is a reminder of that. Devotion laid the foundation for Jessie to go into Dance music with bangers like "100%", the Disclosure remix of "Running" and "Imagine It Was Us", but she instead leaned away from that. But What's Your Pleasure? is also a reclamation of Jessie's womanhood in many ways. It marks Jessie's first album as a mother of two. So there is a sense of renewed femininity and sexuality which comes through the album as a result; in a similar way to Beyoncé's self-titled album, or even Britney's Blackout.

Album review: Jessie Ware - What's Your Pleasure? | Random J Pop

Every album that Jessie has put out, has been a showcase of her potential, but no album has really shown the realisation of it quite like this one. It's big. It's bold. It's sexy. It's sensual. It has heart. Feeling. Passion. It's everything you ever wanted from a Jessie Ware album, but also never expected her to give quite like this.

With What's Your Pleasure? it's like Jessie found herself again. Devotion felt like an album about falling in love. Tough Love felt like an album about being in love. Glasshouse felt like it was about reflecting on that love. But What's Your Pleasure? feels like an album about loving yourself. It's like Jessie took a moment at some point to stop, look at her life and realise what she has. A loving husband, two children, a music career, a book about one of her passions off the back of a massively successful podcast which not only provides another creative outlet for her, but also her mother. Jessie has spent so much time loving others that maybe she forgot to look inward and actually love herself and fulfil herself musical self creatively. What's Your Pleasure? sounds like indulgence and a celebration of self. Her love for herself and her life comes through in this album. There's a joy, a satisfaction and a fearlessness that Jessie has on this album which I've never heard from her before, and it colours the it beautifully. But there's still vulnerability, which has always been the core of Jessie's music and why I adore her. Each album feels like a layer comes away, which is what makes What's Your Pleasure? such a pleasure to listen to. It's a party. But also a dance through a journey of personal growth.

Jessie isn't saying 'I'm back'. She's saying 'I'm here bitch'.


■ Spotlight
■ What's Your Pleasure? 🏆 J's fave
■ Soul Control
■ Save A Kiss
■ In Your Eyes
■ Step Into My Life
■ The Kill
■ Remember Where You Are