ALBUM: Jessie J – Who You Are

Release Date: February 28th, 2011
Label: Universal Island


Since towards the end of 2010, Jessie J has become pretty big news. If you can’t pick her out in the overpopulated female solo artist pop–peddler scene, she’s that one who sings ‘Do It Like A Dude’, and likes to bling her lips up to an insane degree in her music videos. Nevertheless, she has become one of the UK’s fastest rising stars. With a successful song-writing career to build upon (she co-wrote ‘Party In The USA’ for Miley Cyrus, whether that’s a pro or a con is up to personal preference), you would expect ‘Who You Are’ to be jammed full of radio friendly slices of chart topping pop with hooks a-plenty.

Well, let’s start with the familiar. The album opens with ‘Price Tag’, her latest hit. It’s a saccharine Spring anthem, with an infectious chorus and a great turn from the Hayley Williams-bothering B.o.B., bringing his safe rap to the mix. ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ and ‘Abracadabra’ follow; two relatively forgettable pop numbers that feel somewhat underdeveloped and outdated. The first surprise comes however in the form of ‘Big White Room’, a live acoustic track that dials down on the pop and brings Jessie J‘s natural talent to the forefront. There are some tricky notes here, but she’s a competent, confident (and bloody loud) vocalist. It’s a gem amongst the mediocre tracks so far.

Following this, ‘Do It Like A Dude’ sits at the opposite of the spectrum. As a lead single, it seems like a peculiar choice as it doesn’t represent the majority of the album’s lighter, poppier sound, particularly well. Admittedly, it’s one of the bolder songs with some interesting vocal elements that have helped separate Jessie J from the crowd, and with the video she has created a unique, if slightly unnerving, persona for herself.

Possibly the best song on the album comes in the form of ‘Who’s Laughing Now’. I say “possibly”, as your enjoyment of the song will entirely depend on whether you can get over her weird vocal and rapping style in the verses. But if you can, there’s a wickedly catchy chorus and an awesome old-school bass line to reward you for your efforts. It’ll be a summer hit.

Of course, ‘Who You Are’ has its weaker moments. ‘Casualty Of Love’ is a cliché-laden three and a half minutes, and sounds suspiciously like ‘Cry Me Out’ by Pixie Lott. Then there’s ‘Mamma Knows Best’, which feels surprisingly empty despite Jessie J belting her lungs out. Sometimes her over the top vocal style really hits the mark. On ‘I Need This’ for example, her passion for her music shines through, but there are a couple of times on the album where she lays on the towering notes and the Christina Aguilera scale-warble to such a level that it’s almost uncomfortable to listen to. Some of the songs would benefit from a lighter touch, and it’s a shame that so many of them are punctuated with OTT vocals.

The album ends on a high however with ‘Who You Are’, which shows the more tender side to Jessie J‘s sound. She has a great range, and when the music is stripped back she really shines.

There is a lot to like about ‘Who You Are’. There is a good variety of styles represented, from the acoustic softness of ‘Big White Room’, to the stomp of ‘Who’s Laughing Now’, to the unhinged groove of ‘Do It Like A Dude’. There are a few lulls, and the album lacks a sense of direction, a solid identity, but it’s an impressive first effort.

Written by Grant Bailey