And so we arrive at 27-year-old, Brixton based Jessie Ware and her super-hyped debut Devotion. Various magazines left in cafés have already told me a lot about Ware’s nervousness and modest outlook surrounding this release.
Hearing the record it’s hard to relate to any of this. It drags distantly with very few real highlights. Despite the word ‘soul’ being mentioned in all of Ware’s press as the most suitable description of her work, the over-production and repetitiveness of the tracks dulls the aesthetic of a record over-shadowed by relatively bland R&B tinged electronics. Ware rarely raises her voice throughout the album, and seems to be lost in suppressed reverb and multi-tracks, displaying very little of the dynamic excitement that you would expect from a soul influenced record.
Devotion’s opening title track is particularly dulled by this, as the repetitive melody and clichéd heart-break lyrics sit shyly behind washy ambient chimes that failed to keep my attention or project any believable emotion. As the record played out I felt increasingly detached, the instrumentation of the tracks continues in a one dimensional manner with hollow vocal sections seemingly content to repeat themselves.
Yeah, OK, Sweet Talk stands out – it was, after all, another track that helped fuel the ongoing fire of expectation. And, of course, the single Wildest Moments is pop gold.
Ware’s previous collaborations confirm her talent, but this album lacks substance and has definitely fallen victim to over-hype.
But what do I know? Katy Perry likes working out to it, apparently.