"I'm not a saint, no, not at all," pop singer Jessie J sings on "Nobody's Perfect," a track off her debut album, Who You Are. While her looks and pop label may suggest an edgier Britney Spears, or even a Lady Gaga or Pink, Jessie J demonstrates unique talent and promise. The British-born singer's new release effectively showcases her powerful, emotionally evocative voice, suggesting deeper reflection than one might expect from a dance/pop disc.
Jessie J's Who You Are represents her first effort as a solo performer. Previously she toured with such artists as Macy Gray, Chris Brown, Jools Holland, and Cyndi Lauper. She then stretched her muscles as a songwriter, penning songs for Brown and Miley Cyrus ("Party in the USA"). After scoring a major-label contract, she recorded this debut, a satisfying mixture of pop, hip hop, R&B, and rock.
Who You Are contains radio-friendly singles such as "Price Tag," featuring rapper B.o.B., and the raunchy "Do It Like A Dude." While these songs may earn her airplay, it's on the ballads and bluesier tracks where she shines. "Casualty of Love" lets Jessie J growl and strut her way through an R&B slow jam, singing such lines as, "I will go down to the last round," and, "So I'll stand up tall and baby if I fall/Then I'll go down as a casualty of love," with conviction. While the track recalls some of Beyonce's feistier ballads, Jessie J injects the song with some smooth 1970's soul.
A fascinating change of pace, "Big White Room" features Jessie J performing live, accompanied by solely an acoustic guitar. While the song's quiet tone suggests folk, her voice recalls the dynamism of a gospel singer. While the lyrics may not be particularly challenging (the refrain, "I'm going crazy, I'm losing my mind/I'm going crazy, in this big white room of mine," comprises many of the verses), her emotional, tear-the-roof-off vocals keep the listener fascinated. No auto-tuning or other studio trickery is necessary--this artist is the real deal.
One track that has not been released as a single--and should be--is "Abracadabra" (not to be confused with the Steve Miller Band classic). The tune possesses all the qualities a good pop song should have--an irresistible beat, a memorable chorus, and a joyful singing performance. Younger and more seasoned fans can agree on its funky, good-time vibes. Sounding like a song left off of Robin Thicke's Something Else album, the danceable grooves make for a perfect summertime hit.