An assortment of guest appearances and solo singles in the early 2010s situated Jessie Ware in a line of sophisticated U.K. soul and left-field luminaries ranging from Sade Adu, Lisa Stansfield, and Caron Wheeler to Tracey Thorn and Róisín Murphy. The potential the singer and songwriter displayed on early recordings with the likes of SBTRKT, Sampha, and Joker reached fruition with Devotion (2012), her Top Ten U.K., Mercury Prize-nominated debut. By the end of the decade, she had two additional and distinctive full-lengths, Tough Love (2014) and Glasshouse (2017), that fared equally well with smoldering ballads favored over supple grooves. She has since issued her fourth LP, What's Your Pleasure? (2020), packed with disco-fied floor fillers. Amid all the success, Ware has remained a serial collaborator. Bobby Womack, Disclosure, HAIM, Nicki Minaj, and Ed Sheeran are among those who have sought her songwriting and/or vocal assistance. Jessica Lois Ware was born and raised in London. She earned a degree in English literature from the University of Sussex. Her music career began in earnest with background vocalist roles, at first a part-time pursuit as she worked as a journalist. Strides were made with vocals for Man Like Me and Jack Peñate, and she took the lead on RackNRuin's "Soundclash," on which she revealed a voice powerful enough to be heard and felt over a frantic, breakbeat-driven production. By the end of 2010, Ware issued "Nervous," a collaboration with SBTRKT. The following year was even more productive. Her first release of 2011 was "Valentine," a sighing and swooning duet with vocalist/producer Sampha. It was followed by two appearances on SBTRKT's self-titled album, one of which -- the garage/broken beat hybrid "Sanctuary" -- also featured Sampha. "The Vision," the title track on dubstep producer Joker's 4AD debut, was the most impressive showcase for Ware yet. After she signed with the PMR label, she closed out the year with another solo single, "Strangest Feeling," produced by the Invisible's Dave Okumu. Okumu and Julio Bashmore teamed with Ware for the singer's first release of 2012, the plush sophisti-pop single "Running" -- her first placement on the U.K. pop chart -- which led the way for Devotion that August. The LP debuted at number five in the U.K. and was short-listed for the 2012 Mercury Prize. In 2014, after extensive touring and recording, Ware released the singles "Tough Love" and the Ed Sheeran-assisted "Say You Love Me," both Top 40 U.K. pop hits. Tough Love the album followed that October with co-writing and production from a larger committee including Okumu, James Ford, and Benny Blanco, as well as Miguel, Nineteen85, Jimmy Napes, and Emile Haynie. The set reached number nine in the U.K. During the next couple years, Ware co-wrote and appeared on Nicki Minaj's "The Crying Game," and showed more versatility when she appeared on We Love Disney (with a version of "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes") and the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. She made a full return in October 2017 with album three, Glasshouse. The number seven U.K. hit continued Ware's work with Okumu and Blanco and added the high-profile likes of Pop Wansel, Ryan Tedder, and Cashmere Cat to the mix. When the 2010s drew to a close, Ware's deep secondary discography as a featured artist and co-writer also contained recordings with Bobby Womack ("Love Is Gonna Lift You Up"), Disclosure ("Confess to Me"), Mayer Hawthorne ("Her Favorite Song"), HAIM ("Days Gone By"), and Ed Sheeran ("New Man"). Additionally, she had made moves toward the release of her fourth album with the loved-up, dancefloor-aimed singles "Overtime," "Adore You," and "Mirage (Don't Stop)," the first and last of which maintained her creative partnership with James Ford. The energy carried into the majority of What's Your Pleasure?, issued in June 2020.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Pop - Released July 24, 2020 | EMI
Rhapsodic dancefloor intimacy became a new specialization for Jessie Ware with "Overtime," the first in a wave of tracks the singer released from 2018 up to the June 2020 arrival of What's Your Pleasure?, her fourth album. Other than "Adore You," a chiming glider made with Metronomy's Joseph Mount, each one in the series was either produced or co-produced by James Ford, consolidating and rerouting a partnership that started during the making of Tough Love. Unlike Ford and Ware's collaborations on that 2014 LP, the new material didn't merely simmer. Hottest of all, "Mirage (Don't Stop)" worked a ripe disco-funk groove with Ware's opening line, "Last night we danced, and I thought you were saving my life" -- sighed in a Bananarama cadence -- a sweet everything if there ever was one. The loved-up energy was kept in constant supply with the dashing "Spotlight," the Freeez-meet-Teena Marie-at-Compass-Point bump of "Ooh La La," and the sneaky Euro-disco belter "Save a Kiss." All but "Overtime" are included here. That makes the album somewhat anti-climactic, but there's no sense in complaining when the preceding singles keep giving and the new material is almost always up to the same standard. Among the fresh standouts, the bounding Morgan Geist co-production "Soul Control" and the dashing "Step Into My Life" recontextualize underground club music with as much might and finesse as anything by Róisín Murphy. Stylistic deviations are few, well-placed, and maintain lyrical continuity with references to the senses as they relate to emotional and physical connection. "In Your Eyes" recalls Massive Attack's "Safe from Harm" with its hypnotizing bassline, subtly theatrical strings, and aching (if less desperate) vocal. Moving in gradually intensifying and similarly slow motion, "The Kill" enables Ware to let down her guard for an unassured lover. "Remember Where You Are," a stirring finale, takes a little trip to cherish the daybreak in Minnie Riperton and Charles Stepney's chamber folk-soul garden, replete with a goosebump-raising group vocal in the chorus. One can almost smell the baby's breath. © Andy Kellman /TiVo
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