Jessie J can’t just sing…she can sang. It’s a gift most were privy to while watching her belt out “Mamma Knows Best” seated in a Prince T-shirt on her hardwood apartment floor for all of YouTube to see. When the UK siren arrived Stateside with her debut album Who You Are, she came equipped with a “Price Tag” featuring B.o.B. and a cleverly produced beat by Dr. Luke. She was destined for Pop royalty. As Jessie J delivers her follow-up album Alive, she has become fully acclimated within American Pop music, which ultimately has pros and cons.
The album opens with the spunky “It’s My Party,” a middle finger to the haterade guzzlers. “Considering you hate me/you’re stalkin’ like you made me,” she sings with a coy confidence. The Stargate-and-Benny Blanco-produced “Thunder” arrives next, and with its timid soundscape for the first half of the song, it sounds similar to the work of fellow Brit Jessie Ware. That is until the second half of the song erupts and Jess pushes her chops to their very limits.
Jessie’s voice is a gift and a curse. It’s a gift when it’s used as a flexible instrument to surprise us on the scatty-poppish title track or the EDM-infused “Breathe.” It’s even welcome on her single “Wild,” as the gumption in her voice pairs perfectly with the galloping production. Jessie suffers quite often though from oversinging, evidenced by tracks like “I Miss Her,” where the poignant message of dealing with Alzheimer’s disease gets muddled by way too many vocals riffs. A feature from Brandy on “Conquer The World” devours the entire track by way of sweet simplicity, as Bran Bran’s smooth vocals make Jessie’s sound like an overly dramatic middle child at her sister’s talent show. There is also the subject of triteness on the Auto-Tuned “Square One” or the attitudey “Excuse My Rude” with newcomer Becky G. Still, when her voice is executed properly, Jessie J has the potential to be the Pat Benatar of our generation. Check “Gold” for some proof.
When Jessie J titled her debut album Who You Are, it was clear that she was just learning to find herself and navigate her way through the draconian music business. Alive is her celebration of earning her seat at the superstar table. We know she sings better than most American pop stars out. She knows it, too, and is throwing a total party with her vocals as the guest of honor. While at times it sounds like she’s partying too hard, her voice is beautiful enough to someday find its balance. —Kathy Iandoli