Are 21st century musicians all nostalgic for late-70s New York, when decadence, mink coats and cigarette holders were all the rage? Following the release of a first EP with the group Bruises, whose tones inexorably recall the hottest scenes from the James Bond saga, London singer Jessie Ware is back with her fourth studio album, What’s Your Pleasure?. An unprecedented plunge into lust and disco.
1. A thousand and one lives
In 2012 Jessie Ware’s voice resonated for the first time in ears around the entire world. Devotion, her first album, went straight to number 5 in the British top ten. In the tradition of a Kate Bush or a Sade, the Londoner’s music radiated pure desire punctuated with slow, sexy rhythms behind her languorous voice. In no time, she became the soundtrack for bars everywhere with soft velvety banquettes and even permeated into works of erotic fiction. In 2015, an exclusive Jessie Ware track was used for the film adaptation of the smouldering novel Fifty Shades of Grey, where the young Ana discovers the joys of bondage in a completely ridiculous relationship with businessman Christian Grey. A hard knock for feminism, but not for the singer, who continued to be associated with a luxurious and aphrodisiac music.
Over the years, the albums and the collaborations became more and more prestigious. In 2014 Though Love, Jessie Ware’s second record featured the ballad Say You Love Me, co-written with a certain Ed Sheeran. The track remains the singer’s biggest hit with more 120 million streams on Spotify. As the singer’s collaborations multiplied so her career diversified. After offering a track to pop icon Britney Spears, without ever hearing back from her, Jessie Ware was invited to participate on The Pinkprint, Nicki Minaj’s third album. At the same time the artist was working on Table Manners, a culinary podcast that she animates with her mother, Lennie. A hit with celebrities, everyone from the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to the pop star Dua Lipa regularly tunes in. Jessie Ware also launched her own brand, published a cookbook and was chosen to be a UNICEF ambassador. But in spite of her multi-talented career, her insecurities still kept her awake at night.
2. Imposter syndrome
Glasshouse. This is the title of the singer’s third album, released in 2017. Recorded during her first pregnancy, it embodies her most intimate opus, as she explored her relationship with her husband – who she’s known since the age of 18 – the absence of her father – an investigative journalist at the BBC who left her mother when she was 10 – and her terror at the prospect of becoming a mother herself. As ever, the record is bursting with collaborations, this time with artists with a minimalist and melancholic DNA, from the group Francis and the Lights to the Norwegian DJ Cashmere Cat. “It’s probably my most autobiographical record. I created a family the year before. It was something that terrified me, but I’m also so proud of it. There’s a strength in all that, but also a fragility with the idea that it could get broken,” she explained when the opus was released.
After playing at Glastonbury and Coachella, after having a second child, after completing her fourth studio album, Jessie Ware finally seems to have freed herself of the imposter syndrome that’s afflicted her since the beginning of her career. What’s Your Pleasure ?, released on Friday June 26th is embodied by an incredible will and confidence, from the record cover - inspired by the famous image of Bianca Jagger, taken by Andy Warhol - to the most anecdotal sounds.
3. Lust and disco
Reimagining disco for the 21st century. That was probably the buzz in the studio, between Jessie Ware and James Ford (half of the British electronic duo Simian Mobile Disco and producer of Arctic Monkeys and Florence + the Machine). "I wanted the sophistication of disco and melodrama," says the singer about her latest album. A challenge that’s been met hands down, with What’s Your Pleasure? delivering a pure mix of dance and sex. Rooted in the lust of disco, it’s clearly the singer's most innovative and daring work to date.
Listening to What’s Your Pleasure, you can just imagine a party in full swing at Studio 54 – the legendary haunt of Andy Warhol in the early 1980s – cigarette in hand, shredding the dance floor. Her dancing hymns, like Soul Control and Spotlighthave a funky energy. Ooh La La, meanwhile, is led by a bouncy bassline giving it the air of a forgotten B-side. On the credits, we find Joseph Mount, leader of the band Metronomy, and to whom we probably owe the catchy percussion and the slick synthesizers.
At a time when dancefloors feel like a distant, half-erased memory, Jessie Ware’s album is a breath of fresh air – or even better, a big swig of a trendy cocktail. The ultimate proof that disco didn’t die with Donna Summer, What’s Your Pleasure? is full of joyous frivolity, playfully re-transcribed by its author: “I wanted to imagine that I was a man, that I was dancing, that I met strangers and immediately wanted to make love to them!” By blending boogie and intimacy to perfection, the album pays tribute to the underground boogie of a bygone New York, and is as effective as a shiver carousing down your spine after bumping up against a stranger in the darkness of the dance floor…
What’s Your Pleasure [Universal], now available.