In the wave of glitterball-dazzled pop-dance albums that sparkled a little light into 2020’s gloom, Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia was the world-beating monster smash – No 1 in 15 nations, 10bn streams and relying on Spotify. Kylie Minogue’s Disco, in the meantime, was the career-boosting essential and business hit, restoring its writer to her pure habitat after forays into nation and Christmas albums. However Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure? was the classiest. In distinction to the neon-hued Future Nostalgia and Disco, it painted dancefloor euphoria in coolly muted shades and got here wrapped in a sleeve that recalled one among Andy Warhol’s late 70s Polaroid portraits. It tapped a succession of hip names as collaborators – home producers Midland and Morgan Geist and Metronomy’s Joseph Mount amongst them – and it eschewed the apparent reference factors, working as a substitute below the affect of Italo disco, baroque soul producer Charles Stepney and the sort of chugging 110bpm sound that the late Andrew Weatherall favoured at his A Love from Outer House nights.
Assured and confident, it didn’t sound like a final roll of the cube from an artist on the finish of their tether, though that’s exactly what it was. Disheartened by the lukewarm reception afforded her 2017 album, Glasshouse – a lunge for the middle-of-the-road involving a closing observe co-authored by Ed Sheeran – and drained, as she recently put it, of being made “to really feel like I wanted to be the following Adele”, Ware fired her administration and thought of quitting music fully to give attention to her hugely popular podcast Table Manners. Three years on, the success of What’s Your Pleasure? means That! Feels Good! comes from a unique place, and maybe has completely different expectations.
It reunites Pleasure’s core workforce of Ware, producer James Ford and songwriters Danny Parker and Shungudzo Kuyimba, however provides a big-money switch: Stuart Value, producer of Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Ground, and a substantial chunk of Future Nostalgia. Its two lead singles have been topic to high-profile premieres on Radios 1 and a couple of respectively, proof of a perception in Ware’s cross-generational attraction. Each are noticeably brighter-toned and extra direct than something its predecessor provided. The video for the primary, Free Your self, options Ware standing on a plinth, surrounded by androgynous dancers, actually waving a large flag with the title emblazoned on it.
But when on the floor That! Feels Good! is extra brash and upfront – heavy on anthemic songs that require Ware, at all times a robust vocalist, to belt it out moderately than deploy the breathy coo that was its predecessor’s default setting – nearer examination reveals it to be a barely completely different garment minimize from the identical, high-quality material. Often, it overplays its hand in pursuit of uplifting impact and its grin feels barely fastened, not least on Stunning Individuals, which options Ware singing in a badly suited sprechgesang. However by and huge, that is pop music made by individuals who actually know what they’re doing. The songs have bulletproof melodies and killer choruses, whereas snappy lyrics abound: Shake the Bottle’s icy, well-elocuted put-downs (“Jimmy lies, Jimmy cries, Jimmy’s identical to the opposite guys”) bear comparability with Cristina’s sharply witty depictions of New York’s 80s hipster demi-monde.
Furthermore, it’s pop music made by individuals who have each nice style and the nice sense to put on their inspirations calmly. The title observe suggests somebody has been listening to Stay in Gentle by Speaking Heads, therefore the clattering, hyperactive percussion and the brass (from London Afrobeat band Kokoroko) evocative of Jon Hassell’s enjoying on Homes in Movement, nevertheless it conjures the same sweaty, nocturnal temper with out ever dropping its identification or slipping into pastiche. The songs are inclined to alight on small historic particulars moderately than plump for wholesale retro affectation: the disruptive however propulsive impact of programmed drum rolls on early home music; the trace of the showtune that colored some disco on Pearls; the oft-overlooked affect of Latin music on 90s New York home on Start Once more. Nothing right here feels just like the musical equal of Ware making an attempt on a elaborate costume costume. As a substitute, the character that’s made her podcast so successful shines out, leavening the album’s preoccupation with shagging with dry humour – “shake it until the pearls fall off”; “I get a little bit little bit of leisure in your arms”; proudly asserting herself “a freak and a mom”.
Closing observe These Lips just about sums up the album’s attraction: an enormous refrain, a droll lyric, a superb brass association that alternately floats over the tune’s floor and blasts it out of the water. It’s Twenty first-century disco that by no means resorts to cheesy cliches. If its predecessor’s success got here partly due to being launched in the course of the period of the enforced kitchen dancefloor, That! Feels Good! suggests it was really principally all the way down to its high quality: it set a excessive normal that Ware appears fully able to sustaining.
This week Alexis listened to
The Paracosmos – Earthling
Epic folk-soul, with a glowing yacht-rock chaser and backing vocals from British soul legend Linda Lewis.