Review: What’s Your Pleasure? – Jessie Ware

Jessie Ware’s fourth studio album is a fun and catchy experience that deserves to be up there in terms of the best disco music, period.

By Christopher Romo

 

I will admit, I am not the biggest fan of disco. Disco for me conjures up images of the 70s decadence, and with a few notable exceptions (David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and Madonna’s “Material Girl”), the genre has always felt a bit artificial to me.

This fourth studio album by British singer-songwriter Jessie Ware, however, is the exception that proves the rule. This is a delicious album, made to be listened to through your best quality headphones. More than anything, it is fun and catchy, and deserves to be up there in terms of the best disco music, period.

Some highlights of this surprisingly lengthy record include the ice-cold “Soul Control.” Ware’s vocals impeccably meld with background singers and icy synths that just slice through a meaty bass line. This strikes just the right balance between mainstream pop and abstract art.

The most impressive song on the album is the awesomely restrained “Adore You.” With what seem like bells in the background and soft vocals that threaten to explode but never do, this lends the track a sort of musical tension that is exemplified through lyrics that celebrate her soon to be born child. There is a maternal feel to this track that is somehow relatable to the average listener.

Another highlight is the cascade of synths (again!) that conclude the bridges in the title track, “What’s Your Pleasure?,” along with a prominence of high-hats, a classic staple of disco. However, do not mistake the poppy veneer as a shallow façade, as the dark “In Your Eyes” serves to dispel any notion that this album is all surface, no depth. The synths once again feature prominently on “Read My Lips,” a very sensual and casual song that implies a hookup.

And then there’s my personal favorite: “The Kill,” which discusses the crumbling of a once-happy relationship, a subject always difficult to get right. The almost laid-back production belies the desperation in the vocals as Ware works to save a relationship with her unnamed partner. Coupled with some classical violins in the background, this is a standout track.

I think that is my biggest problem with the album. The writing, while strong on the surface, is just that: surface level. Apart from the aforementioned “In Your Eyes,” “The Kill” and the album’s closer (which has an almost musical feel to it, ripped straight from Broadway, and is the only overly political track on the record), the lyrics seem to be just a placeholder for the awesome and impeccable production.

The closing track, aptly titled “Remember Where You Are,” has lyrics that seem to diss the prime minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, for being a habitually ineffective leader. While abstract enough to skirt under the radar, it just doesn’t quite stick the landing for it to be the statement it is claiming to be.

For every synth, for every hi-hat crash and for every bassline, there seems to be a preponderance of lyrics ranging from the discussion of hookup culture, to outright nothingness. But that’s not a detraction in the slightest. It’s meant to be fun and catchy, and Ware knows exactly what buttons to push to make that happen.

This album, while technically classified as disco, spans a variety of genres, not limited to, but including, bubblegum pop, Italo disco and club music. That is the appeal of this record, that there is something in it for everybody. And despite my criticisms, I think its focus on fun, meaty production instead of lyrics make it one you can listen to repeatedly and still discover new details. Jessie Ware has outdone herself with this new project, and it is by far the best record she has made in her career.

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