Single Review: Jessie Ware - Free Yourself

A header image for the post, featuring a vinyl of Jessie Ware’s single “Free Yourself”

Jessica’s first new single off of her 5th studio album is called “Free Yourself”, and is produced by Stuart Price, who is no stranger to working on throwback club jaunts. Stuart is famously known as the mastermind behind Madonna’s widely acclaimed Confessions on a Dancefloor, executive producing Kylie’s return to form that was Aphrodite, helming the Scissor Sisters’ grossly overlooked Night Work, and also lending his touch to a couple of songs on Duolingo’s Future Nostalgia (one of which happened to be her biggest hit, “Levitating”). So Jessica bringing him in to work on some material is a bit of a no brainer, now that she’s fully in her pop bitch / dance bag.

“Free Yourself” is very much in the same vein as Jessica’s 2020 album What’s Your Pleasure?, which was one of the year’s best albums. And if you don’t agree, then you can go debate it with somebody else, ‘cos we ain’t doing it here. What’s Your Pleasure? was given a long-ass set of legs, thanks in part due to a delay (because, pandemic), its breakout success worldwide (probably, also due to the pandemic), a long stretch of singles, a delayed tour (because, pandemic), a re-release which spawned even more singles, and Jessie featuring on a song with Kylie Minogue, which threw people back to Jessie’s album, because it sounded like an offcut from What’s Your Pleasure? due to it being co-written and produced by the same posse who did that album. So the timing of “Free Yourself” causes it to not necessarily feel like it’s the signalling of a new phase or ‘era’ of Jessie’s career, but more a continuation of it. This is no bad thing. Not in the slightest. Some artists dream of having an album which has the continued momentum that Jessie had with What’s Your Pleasure?. And the fact that Jessie isn’t sitting on material like ‘Let me wait a while’ or taking a break, shows how much she really enjoys being that pop bitch, and how good a creative space she’s in that she’s already made new music and wants to share it with us all.

One of the greatest things about What’s Your Pleasure? wasn’t just how good the music was, but the transformation we saw Jessie undertake. She went from this really quiet, almost reclusive and timid act, to this pop dynamo who was singing bigger. Expressing herself visually in ways she hadn’t before. Putting her sensuality and sexuality out in full display. It was amazing to witness as a fan since the days of Devotion. Jessie really unlocked herself with What’s Your Pleasure?. And whilst “Free Yourself” is a command from Jessie to us all, it feels like a celebration of the person she has become. This is what makes the song feel so joyous and special listening to it as a fan, because Jessie truly freeing herself is something that we have witnessed Jessie do spectacularly over the past 2 years.

“Free Yourself” also feels like a celebration of what Jessie’s fanbase has become. Not only has Jessie’s fanbase grown considerably since the release of “Spotlight”, but the gays have appointed Jessica as a gay icon, something she is fully accepting of. And “Free Yourself” will absolutely be claimed a queer anthem. A four on the floor call to arms, to live as your truest self. It’s almost a shame that the song was released after Pride month. But it still has the whole Summer ahead of it. And “Free Yourself” sounds so immediately classic and timeless, with a message which will always be relevant, that it will undoubtedly become a Pride setlist fixture for years to come.

“Free Yourself” doesn’t reinvent any wheels. It definitely lacks variation and the richness that I’d become accustomed to from Jessie’s James Ford productions. I could have done with a bigger horn section, a percussive breakdown and a soaring middle 8 to really lift the song. Because “Free Yourself” feels like it’s taking you somewhere, but not quite all the way somewhere. It’s an easy thing to forgive though, given how infectious the groove is, and how quickly you get lost in it. It’s a shame the song isn’t longer for this reason. But I’ll hold out hope that much like “Spotlight”, the album version of the song will be longer. Or that we will get an extended mix of it at some point down the line. I know streaming has forced everybody to release shorter songs to try and game the system. But I do wish more artists releasing dance records would go all the way, honour the genre fully, and bring back 6-7 minute extended mixes.

Whilst Jessie teaming up with the prince of the dancefloor that is Stuart Price and delivering something that the Horse Meat Disco girls will live for, and finally giving the clubs that camp up-tempo jam that will get shirts off and fists pumping (Ooop!) is fun; Jessie is still the focal point of the song because of that damn chorus. It’s incredibly rare to hear Jessie sounding as bold and assertive as she does on the chorus of “Free Yourself”. It’s refreshing. It suits her. And she truly does sound free.


I still feel that Jessie isn’t getting out in front of the music the way in which she should for a whole song. On “Free Yourself” it’s like Jessie steps all the way out to the front for the chorus, then hides back behind the music for the verses. I get that Jessie’s quiet form of singing and the way her voice is mixed has become somewhat of a signature for her since the days of Devotion. The one thing about Glasshouse that I think was overlooked was how Jessie really started to have a bigger vocal presence on her songs. It was like she finally wanted to be HEARD heard. She needs to continue to push this more, and not use sexiness and sultriness as an excuse not to. The clarity and the projection she gave us on “Wildest Moments” and “Midnight”, that’s what I want more of from Jessie across entire songs. No more hiding.

But I’m glad that Jessie is at a point in her career where she both willing and able to play around with her sound, her voice and the different ways in which she can use it to express herself. Even if she does still hide now and again. It’s always a joy when an artist who you thought you had down, then turns around and serves you something that you knew they had in them. And I’m glad that Jessie didn’t heel toe on dance and disco after What’s Your Pleasure?. Because she very easily could have, in a bid to come off brand new.

“Free Yourself” isn’t the absolute perfection that “Spotlight” and “What’s Your Pleasure?” were. Whereas they both feel whole, complete and meticulously arranged, “Free Yourself” sounds a little rushed and rough around the edges, and feels as though it’s missing sections and transitions here and there. But it is a really fun, feel good song, and will probably end up being Jessie’s first single to stick around in the charts and in the clubs. And it sits her alongside many of the pop heavy hitters in the game. Jessie may have felt like she was playing at being a pop star and dance diva, but with a song like this off the back of everything else, she’s a pretender no longer.

Verdict: Go climb Mt. Fuji, bitch