Jessie Ware - Devotion
English singer/songwriter, Jessie Ware, has finally struck out on her own in the international music scene. Previously known by her guest vocals on SBTRKT tracks like “Nervous” and Joker’s “The Vision,” it is already clear that Jessie Ware can sing; now she does so with only a few hesitations.
Even from the fringes of SBTRKT and Joker’s dubstep-streaked records, listeners gravitated to Ware’s ethereal sounds. She barely trembles as she reaches for high notes on “Nervous,” and maintains a stylistic yet precise tempo on Joker’s dance track. When Ware released “Running” as the lead single from her debut solo album Devotion, she kept the same haunting treble, but added soul. Rather than hiding behind synth beats as she had previously done, Ware’s second single, “110%,” shows the songstress’ ability to assert her own originality. The song soared to No. 61 in the UK Singles Chart, proving that dance tracks can maintain popularity even with a strong female voice.
Although Ware has a distinctive sound, the similarities between her and Grammy award winning British musician, Sade, are glaring. Both are British and supremely talented, and both had to negotiate the transition between singing background vocals and asserting themselves as soloists. Perhaps even more obvious than that, the sounds of Ware and Sade are eerily similar. Sweet and fleeting up into the trebles with a softly seductive bass, Ware is an echo of Sade.
Where Sade maintains a strong chorus on famous tracks like “No Ordinary Love,” Ware’s voice lacks assertiveness on much of her debut record. Even on the title track “Devotion,” reverb is used so freely that Ware’s vocal power cannot be heard to its fullest extent. This is frustrating as Ware is certainly capable of the sort of vocal dominance that has surged the likes of Adele to international fame.
“Night Light,” with its forceful narrative, is much more satisfying. Electric guitar riffs, strong momentum, and a self-assured chorus all hint at what Devotion could have been. Even though Ware could have accomplished great things if she explored a sound that relied less on synths and reverb, Devotion still achieves a lot. “No To Love” and “Sweet Talk” are reminiscent of Ware’s techno origins but with notes of an R&B influence. They make for an interesting mélange that we haven’t heard before.
Even if Devotion is slightly disappointing at times, this only serves to speak volumes about Jessie Ware’s long-term potential. As a debut album, Devotion is coherent and never loses sight of its goal: to produce transcendental dance music that unobtrusively works its magic.
However, as captivating as Devotion is, Jessie Ware negotiates a fine line. She sings with stylistic reticence that could be dangerous on a first record. From the shimmering wind chime introduction of “Devotion” to the powerful riffs on the last track “Something Inside,” Jessie Ware is grasping for her own sound. This could impede listeners who, by the end of Devotion, want to know what Jessie Ware, as a soloist, is all about.