Photo: Ben Quinton/The Guardian
by Andrew Bosma Music Pop Rocks

Jessie Ware | What’s Your Pleasure?

July 30, 2020

Jessie Ware’s latest does exactly what pop should do — it innovates and bears beautiful reassurance.

Jessie Ware nearly called it quits after 2017’s Glasshouse, an album that resulted in an exhausting tour cycle, middling reviews, and slumping sales. Subsequent pressure to push past what she’d previously done put her in a difficult position, but as a last ditch effort to find some creative respite, Ware started a podcast about food with her mom. The result, “Table Manners,” was a huge success, nabbing big name guests like Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Sara Bareilles, and many others. What’s Your Pleasure? is the culmination of this de facto creative revitalization, bringing Ware’s confidence and bravado to the fore, while delivering some sick pop beats. More reminiscent of Glasshouse than anything else on the record, album opener “Spotlight” features sparse vocals over a rich, billowing orchestra. Cascading vocals soon follow (”Tell me when I’ll get more than a dream of you / Cause a dream is just a dream and I don’t want to sleep tonight”), and then a classic club beat hits the listener like a freight train, setting the tone for the rest of the tracks. 

Throughout, Ware breezes effortlessly through complex vocal lines and thick harmonious chords, layering sounds on top of sounds that can best be described as heavenly. She manages to evoke the Janet Jackson era of club-pop while still retaining her own unique vocal stylings and fills. It takes an immense amount of talent to capture tantalizing emotion in the way Ware manages, but it takes just as much skill to evince reverence for those who came before her while still resolutely pushing the genre forward. Pop is, in many ways, innately intimate, and in a present moment where distance equals safety, it’s especially appealing that this album is so enamored with the concept of touch. Sensual and suggestive, What’s Your Pleasure? feels like a forgotten world, where dim lights, large crowds, and grinding bodies were the norm. As we move towards the end of summer, Ware’s album offers some reassurance that those times may still return.

Published as part of Pop Rocks | Q2 2020 Issue – Part 2.