English singer-songwriter and infamous vocal acrobat Jessie J – most notably known for her international smash “Domino” and as the writer of Miley Cyrus‘ forever-awesome hit single “Party in the USA” – released her third studio album Sweet Talker this week, and I’ve got to be honest with you: It’s meh.
Sweet Talker, includes all of the right ingredients you think are required to craft a stellar pop album: a truly gifted vocalist with wide recognition (for the record: I love Jessie J), in-your-face mainstream collaborators (Ariana Grande and Nick Minaj on “Bang Bang“, 2 Chainz on “Burnin’ Up“), and a heavy dose of big-wig producers that include Max Martin, Diplo, Tricky Stewart, Savan Kotecha, and much more. All of this, however, fails to make up for the astounding lack of personality showcased by Jessie J throughout the entirety of the album.
With a total of 15 songs on the deluxe version, Sweet Talker is a marathon album fully equipped with gratuitous belting, infrequent-although-deliciously catchy hooks, and seemingly second-thought orchestrations. Kicking off with a familiar “I’m-an-individual-so-fuck-you” track titled “Ain’t Been Done” (cc: Who’s Laughing Now, Do it Like a Dude, etc), Jessie tells us once again that she is the best in the game and is about to do something that “Ain’t Been Done“. Although the track showcases Jessie‘s truly astounding vocals (as per usual), it’s standoffish lyrics: “I’m so I’ll, I’m gonna need a painkiller // stealing the show like a criminal,” sets a less-than-cute tone for the remainder of the album which ultimately fails to deliver on the promise made in this opening number.
“Burnin’ Up“, the official second single, has a relentlessly sticky hook and some very potent metaphors about love: “I got the matches, you got the gasoline // Light up the floor like it’s Billie Jean”. It is guaranteed that the chorus of this song, a seemingly unending loop of “I’m burnin’ up” will be stuck in your head for hours after listening. This is one of the better songs off the album; with only thing lacking being substance of any kind.
“Personal“, a song penned by fellow songbird Elle Varning, refreshingly deviates from the running melodic structure of the album and provides a much needed reminder of what Jessie J is capable of as an artist. Featuring soft, laid back vocals and deeply relatable lyrics, she croons: “Ain’t got a shotglass in my fist // to spill it away on my business // telling these strangers about you // I’m getting too // personal,” to a slow-burning drum beat, keeping listeners enthralled start to finish.
As Sweet Talker reaches its end, the song “Strip” comes in as a joyous reminder of what we love about Jessie J. This “Domino“-esque tune embraces an effervescent melody and equally uplifting production by Ammo. It’s one of the better tracks on the album because it’s not trying to be anything but a fun pop song, and my only wish is that we saw a lot more of that from her. Lastly, I find it partly comical and mostly ironic that the final song on the album is titled “You Don’t Really Know Me“, as I couldn’t really agree more.
I mentioned this earlier, but I want to take this time to reiterate: I absolutely love Jessie J. I’m very aware that her voice and style of music can be excruciatingly polarizing, but I have been hopelessly devoted (that’s a reference from Grease) to her since we first saw her sitting on her bedroom floor wailing mama knows best through our computer screens. When I think about who Jessie J was as an artist versus who Jessie J is as an artist now, I can’t help but think of Tyra Banks‘ iconic verbal smack down towards ANTM season 4 contestant/meek peasant Tiffany, whom Tyra was rooting for and was subsequently let down by. Jessie J is a lot like Tiffany in this sense. She has so much going for her. So. Much. She just needs to hit her stride with what kind of artist she wants to be.
We’re all rooting for you, Jessie!