Jessie J aka Jessica Cornish found huge success with her 2011 debut album Who You Are. Selling over 2.5 million copies worldwide, the album spawned the huge hits Do It Like A Dude, Price Tag, Nobody’s Perfect, Who’s Laughing Now, Domino, Who You Are and LaserLight. In the time between releasing the album and recording her follow-up, Jessie has regularly been on our TV screens as a mentor on BBC show The Voice, a role she has now left to concentrate on her music. Recently she released new album Alive hot on the heels of Top 5 hits Wild and It’s My Party.
As its two singles have shown, Alive is an album that doesn’t stick to one sound or genre of music. Jessie combines her love of hip-hop/urban music with pop sensibilities and a dance edge. This makes it fairly difficult to pinpoint the overall sound of the record but it does give the listener a sense of the directions she could go as an artist in the future. Alive opens with It’s My Party, a song that answers back to Jessie’s haters. It’s packed with attitude and Jessie’s trademark vocal tics before launching into a big chorus that is made for radio.
After listening through the album several times, we have a similar complaint to that of her debut album. Whilst there’s no doubt that Jessie is a capable vocalist, she still has a tendency to want to prove it with every opportunity meaning that her vocals are screechy in places which is a bit harsh on the ears at times. She’s coming from the Christina Aguilera school of vocals where screaming full-pelt seems to be the objective for pretty much every song. One case in point is the mid-tempo pop of Thunder where the last minute or so of the song is just pure screaming and had us reaching for the volume button and the ibuprofen.
Perhaps the worst offender is I Miss Her. Despite starting off fairly nicely complementing Jessie’s voice with a minimal musical arrangement, she soon screams all over the top of it losing the melody and dare we say the emotional message.
When she shows restraint and more control over her vocals, you get a glimpse of how good Jessie really could be if she just dialled it down a bit. Sexy Lady, which you’ll be familiar with as it’s used in a heavily rotated ad at the moment, features minimal vocal acrobatics and pelting sounding all the better for it. Breathe is another example where she showcases her vocal power in a more controlled way. She has a strong vibrato when holding notes and scaling to the higher end of the spectrum. When she exercises control like this, her voice is much more pleasant on the ears.
The strongest tracks on the album include the 90s-influenced Daydreamin’, the urban one-two of Excuse My Rude featuring Becky G and Wild featuring Big Sean and Dizzee Rascal, and title track Alive. All of these songs feature minimal shouty vocals and sound all the better for it. Our favourite track on the album is Conquer The World featuring Brandy. Having the R&B star on the track seems to pull Jessie’s vocals back a bit and she sounds great singing in her lower register. Brandy has an incredible voice and she knows how to use it to showcase her strengths. On paper you wouldn’t think the duet would work but it does.
Our frustrations remain with Jessie J after listening to Alive thoroughly. She has a lot of potential as an artist but her tendency to over-sing prevents us from being a fan. As Christina Aguilera before her has proven, screaming your vocals eventually starts to affect your voice and there really is no need to constantly show how powerful your voice is at every opportunity. Alive is a mixed bag of tracks and we just hope (as we did after her first album) that Jessie starts to exercise some real control of her voice and explore what it can do without having to scream the majority of the time.