My daughter was recently given a copy of this album by someone. I don’t mind but I was informed that there was swearing on it. Now I suppose I could have used this as an excuse to throw the album away but I figured that would create some sort of latent resentment which would draw my offspring toward J against my wishes. That’s not something I want so I thought I could use my skills to edit out the swearing, but I quickly realised that in order to do that I would have to listen to it. All of it. From beginning to end. If you’ve read any of my previous reviews or listened to the podcast you may well be aware that Jessie J is as far outside my comfort zone as it is possible to get. So after an internal dialogue I decided that not only would I listen to this album but I’d get something positive out of it so here is my review of Jessie J’s album “Who You Are”.
One of the things that gets trumpeted about J is that she was a songwriter for such luminaries as Chris Brown and Miley Cyrus. Auspicious. So I was disappointed to see that the credits for this album list something like fifteen different songwriters, with as many as 5 or 6 on one song. In fact songwriter J managed to write only 1 song on her own and that wasn’t one of the seven singles that have been released off the album. There’s some weird inverse relationship between the number of singles culled from an album and the quality of that album which I struggle to define mathematically but know in my heart to be true.
Opening track “Price Tag” is thankfully the only one to feature guest rapping from B.O.B. I don’t know who BOB is other than that Tyler, The Creator wants to stab him in his fucking oesophagus and that’s good enough for me. It’s a song that you’ve probably heard. It has a childishly simple chorus and the subject is essentially that people don’t need money to have fun. Fair enough but why are you releasing so many singles if you’re not bothered about money ? The first of many hypothetical questions I found myself posing to Miss J, mainly because there was very little to occupy my mind other than listening for swear words.
Why is there swearing on a Jessie J album ? Does that mean adult human beings listen to it ? I can understand my daughter wanting to listen to it. It’s non-threatening and vaguely cheerful sounding (provided you don’t get too close) but surely there’s nothing here for anyone over the age of 14. The music is almost all the same pace and construction. Virtually all the instruments are sampled apart from the odd acoustic guitar but it doesn’t matter because they’re compressed into the background to make room for J’ perpetual ululation. You know what ululation means, right ? It’s when a voice displays vibrato because the singer manipulates the Uvula. When you listen to old people singing they love it. I don’t know why. It’s also the single required component for having a good singing voice nowadays apparently. Before Aguilera and Carey a voice was judged on all kinds of merits but for most people now a good singer only requires the ability to force a note through a variety of awkward octave changes. Clearly J has studied this art of dead histrionics closely and is technically capable of making notes do all kinds of unpleasant things but the note is never happy about it. It is least happy when subjected to Jessie J’s grotesque melismatic vocal actions. Melisma is a kind of stuttering effect, where you hang on to a consonant or vowel while being sung, elongating it the sort of thing Carey and Aguilera and co have done for so long it no longer seems garish, but in Jessie J’s throat it becomes hilariously nightmare-ish. There are various points where she sounds like Bugs Bunny and they really have to be heard to be believed. There is very little else I can say about this music. She switches from transatlantic diva to mockney muppet when rapping and her rapping is not good, especially when she starts using patois on “Do It Like A Dude” (“man dem”) but I guess if you can pretend to be American without anyone getting upset you can pretend to be black too.
I don’t know if I was hoping for a surprise or thought something interesting would come out if this but neither has happened. I have learned about melisma and have also learned that two of the dickheads from Orson have gone on to form a production duo called The Invisible Men, responsible for some of the rubbish on this album and some other much more heinous crimes against music. Ultimately, Jessie J appears to be the vocal equivalent of Yngwie J Malmsteen and this album has the emotional depth of a Hello magazine cover.