herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Blimey! It's Jessie J and a cast of thousands

Jessie J Sweet Talker (Lava/Republic Records)

The three words that are the ruination of contemporary pop might seem innocuous.

But they've seeped into the body politic like a virus, attacking our cultural immune system from within. If you're a devoted fan of those reality TV pop music talent shows, you may have already been infected and become so confused you might be thinking that acts like Overload Generation, Olly Murs or even our own loveable Jedward, are the future of music.

Charming though those performers undoubtedly are, it's a massive dose of good luck, karma or sanctifying grace that's spared them the fate that's befallen Jessie J (inset).

Back to those three words, then. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you, "host of collaborators."

Admittedly, when I first heard the Londoner's debut single Do It Like A Dude four years ago, I reckoned we'd been introduced to a sensational new talent who might be capable of changing the course of pop trends. Jessie J's performance seemed so assured and defiant that I never guessed her song was a co-write with six other geezers. The follow up, Price Tag, only involved three co-writers.

I wasn't put off by revelations that Jessie was a product of stage school. A lot of poncey rockers are, too.

But then Jessie went and spoiled the illusion by appearing as agony aunt on a mainstream Saturday evening TV show that wasn't Dr. Who.

As an artist, Jessie is at the mercy of a voracious industry that demands regular supplies of tuneful fresh meat. It wasn't enough that she'd co-written Party In The U.S.A. for Miley Cyrus, she had to have the goods to make the crossover leap herself.

And so, despite Jessie being a household name in Britain, the industry didn't even bother to release her second album, Alive, in the States.

There's a lot riding on Sweet Talker.

One can imagine the business meetings that monitored the album's progress from writing to recording to mastering.

When the corporate muscle gets involved, even a feisty talent like Jessica Ellen Cornish gets squeezed in the process.

Teaming her with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj pays dividends with Bang Bang ricocheting around the charts. The rest of Sweet Talker's songs are designed by teams of writers and producers to consolidate that US success.

Ain't Been Done harks back to Do It Like A Dude but doesn't sound as fresh. Burnin' Up, featuring rapper 2 Chainz, breathlessly recreates a roller-coaster experience.

Masterpiece brings the drama with Jessie promising, "I'm still working on my masterpiece." Unfortunately, her vocal technique suggest we'll be waiting a while.

Perhaps if she'd been left to her own devices Sweet Talker would have sounded more distinctive and entertaining.

Whoever said that a camel was a race horse designed by committee might have had Jessie's Sweet Talker in mind.

HHH

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