Jessie Ware
Devotion


4.0
excellent

Review

by Adam Downer STAFF
August 22nd, 2012 | 100 replies


Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

Review Summary: love stinks, yeah yeah

Predictably, Jessie Ware concludes Devotion by shying away. “Offer me something inside,” she says. “A place to go, a place to hide.” She’s been doing this all record, singing the shit out of gorgeous pop songs without reveling in them, avoiding cheesy goo as if it were a privilege she doesn’t think she’s earned. Devotion’s got no glitz, no strings buoying filler (not that there is any), no lyrics delivered with what one might describe as “moxie.” It’s stark, comprised of little more than Ware’s voice filtered through a little bit of reverb and some understated accompaniment, allowing Ware to dictate the personality of her record.

And Devotion isn’t confident. I mean, it is, in how remarkably assured Ware sounds baring what she chooses to and in how it allows the artist to take the focus she deserves, but what I mean is that Devotion’s personality isn’t confident. It’s many other things--at different times warm, cold, sexy, and sad--but above all else, it’s loving. It loves in a way that latches on too tightly and endures in the face of consistent abuse, a way that breaks its protagonist down to the point of admitting “I know I’m the weak one,” a way where the fear of being alone trumps the familiarity of hurt. It is called Devotion, ya dig?

But the magic of Devotion is how it flips that script on us. All that tough stuff gets coated in R&B chocolate--hooks that hit the ear like a breath, beats that sound better with the lights off, harmonies gunning for your loins--so it goes down smooth. And at the center of it all is Ware, pining, aching in little phrases with messes of implications behind them. “Still Love Me” is the closest the album gets to sounding cocky, decked with a hypnotizing strut and a repeated mantra of “If I make myself understood, will you treat me like you know you should?” The whole thing sounds like pretty standard girl-power stuff until you pay attention to the verses and find Ware bewildered that someone would be interested in her. “Why’d you want me?” she asks. “Why’d you stay so close? You’re still not leaving? Was I enough?” Through this lens, the “will you treat me like you know you should?” cliché gets undermined as Ware gets cast as a pop star who believes she deserves worse than what she has, and rather than being grateful, she’s simply confused. What sounds self-assured is actually an expression of a conflicted sense of self-worth.

This level of subtlety is something that doesn’t click until the tenth or so listen and could just as easily go by misunderstood and the album wouldn't be worse for it, but it’s all over Devotion. On “Sweet Talk,” a Grammy contender for pop song of the year in my happy brain-world where the Grammys aren’t a total crock of shit, the “sweet talk” in question is sung about like it is of the sexy variety but is actually the apologies from an emotionally devastating lover. Elsewhere, the lyric “feel free to touch me” has never sounded so grody as it does on “110%,” where a club beat gives the idea that Ware should mean it, but the breathy emptiness to her voice and the guy sneakily chanting “carving my initials on your forehead” in the background colors it icky. This juxtaposition--the seeming lack of confidence against the hints of pop’s regular boastful excess--makes Devotion so addictively intriguing. How strange it is to hear a pop singer sound so unsure, so self aware, and how wonderful too; it’s not often you hear a singer express a character as bleak as Ware does here without intentionally playing the mope.

I don’t think it’s particularly bold to say that the extent to which albums like this--your Born To Dies, your 21s, solo vocal, mostly-love-songs pop records--click is in part related to the believability of the performer. Ware isn’t the only female pop star that’s used self-deprecation to invite listeners to fall for her, obviously, but the way she avoids melodrama makes her feel tangible in a way that the gloss of an Adele or the construction of a Lana Del Rey can’t quite achieve. Ware is more intimate, the “private pop star” she wants to be, the musical equivalent of “that feel when…” She fidgets in front of a camera and admits to playing pop-star dress-up in her “Wildest Moments” video (“Wildest Moments,” by the by, being my Grammy pick for Record of the Year). On the stunning and satisfying closer “Something Inside,” when she offers not-without-a-certain-air-of-acceptance “let me run, let me feel like someone,” it feels real even though the line itself is vague. Ware is close enough to her audience’s level that filling in the vast space behind that lyric with personal experience doesn’t feel cheap. The performance of her conflicted character, the way she flippantly drops little bombshells in pretty packaging rather than belting them over sappy piano ballads, makes it personal in a way that betrays it means something to her, which is enough to make it mean something to us.

And what’s more is that it will mean something different for everyone; Devotion is an album anyone can enjoy, but not necessarily in a shared way, not in the kitsch way where you turn on, say, Lady Gaga and know exactly how you as a person are supposed to enjoy it. Devotion does something remarkable in making the universal--love, heartbreak, and yes, devotion--feel specific, simply because Jessie Ware doesn’t sound like she’s lying. Kind of weird that that feels special, doesn’t it?



Recent reviews by this author
Beach Slang Cheap Thrills On A Dead End StreetThe Men Tomorrow's Hits
Macintosh Plus FLORAL SHOPPEThe Dismemberment Plan Uncanney Valley
Justin Timberlake The 20/20 ExperienceThe Men New Moon
user ratings (158)
Chart.
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2012


15082 Comments


FINNA READ THIS

conradtao
Emeritus
August 22nd 2012


2090 Comments


"that feel when..."


no..... Adam... no...

conradtao
Emeritus
August 22nd 2012


2090 Comments


Being stuck in the friendzone


ADAM

I haven't even read the review but I want to CLOCK YOU OVER THE HEAD right now

Okay now I read the review, and it's good – particularly the last two paragraphs! I've had this in my library for a while. Can't wait to hear it.

Gyromania
August 22nd 2012


16088 Comments


no..... Adam... no... [2]



robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2012


15082 Comments


adam dont listen 2 the haters

conradtao
Emeritus
August 22nd 2012


2090 Comments


i heard that cupping your ears, leaning your head to the left and sticking your tongue out helps you listen 2 the haters better

someguest
August 22nd 2012


21390 Comments


Fuck the friendzone.

Digging: Pet Shop Boys - Please

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2012


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

skdjhfasgjhakjtfajkfhadkgjahx OKAY FINE GOD

iarescientists
August 22nd 2012


5863 Comments


adam i'm really sorry i made that prof pic for you

you clearly don't deserve it

Gyromania
August 22nd 2012


16088 Comments


the review is very well written, but that summary ugh.

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
August 22nd 2012


31620 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

God damn this review

Album is really good as well, though I definitely prefer it when she's supplying vocals for other people

Digging: Theo Parrish - American Intelligence

Drsmith4
August 22nd 2012


1719 Comments


is this music to make you forget you're boiling ramen in a pan of your own tears?



Gyromania
August 22nd 2012


16088 Comments


change your summary back lol

Polymath
August 22nd 2012


3836 Comments


Wow Adam Ernest Downer this review rocks a lot.

chambered49
August 22nd 2012


1727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Abusive Relationships such as liking the Jets



baha ggggggmennnnnnn


album rules a very healthy amount

defjaw83
August 22nd 2012


1776 Comments


Interested to hear this. P4K also raving over it. Great review man

FelixCulpa
August 22nd 2012


1240 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I need to listen to this some more but first impressions were good. But man the chorus on "Wildest
Moments" sucks, can't stand it.

ThyCrossAwaits
August 22nd 2012


3065 Comments


BABY IN OUR WILDEST MOMENTS

^ playing in my head during the entire "no Adam no"

Digging: Old Man Gloom - The Ape of God I

clercqie
Contributing Reviewer
August 22nd 2012


6515 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Meh. Decent pop album, but nothing more.

mindleviticus
August 22nd 2012


8331 Comments


It's okay, but I won't be listening to it again anytime soon. Although I do really like the rhythms in
the background.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy