Jessie J review – self-care anthems and spiky wit

Koko, London
Letting her inner Essex girl run riot, the singer campaigns to win back the UK’s affections with banter, tremulous ballads and new tracks from her album ROSE

‘When I’m 85,” says Jessie J, who is 29, “I’ll probably be doing Vegas. Or if not Vegas, Pontins.” Primped and Americanised as she is, the singer still has Essex running through her veins. Though she has probably spent too much time in the States to ever fully reacquaint herself with fundamental British concepts such as pessimism and the half-empty glass, she also no longer seems to be the aspirant Mariah who moved to Los Angeles in 2014 because she was treated “as an artist” there, whereas the British “don’t appreciate my voice”.

Having potentially alienated the fans who hadn’t been put off by her table-thumping enthusiasm as a judge on The Voice, she’s now campaigning to reassert herself in the UK. If her new album, titled ROSE, doesn’t do it, her spiky British wit might. “If you know the words, sing along,” she advises before a stormy Nobody’s Perfect. “If you don’t, then don’t try to sing. It’s really annoying.” Keen to cover all bases, she also deploys some self-deprecating charm. “Even though this isn’t the best song on the album in some people’s opinion, it was the right one to go with first because it tells my story,” she explains, as her keyboardist trickles out the intro to ROSE’s lead single, Think About That.

ROSE stands for Realisations, Obsessions, Sex, Empowerment, and Jessie’s oft-told story – the Brit School, the YouTube years, the long-term emotional fragility that spawned tonight’s opening song, Who You Are (its payoff line: “It’s OK not to be OK,” is gustily sung by everyone in the house) – is mentioned again this evening. It ties in neatly with today’s self-care movement, and the new songs played tonight, particularly the funk-rocking Not My Ex, hint that the album will be packed with more earnest but likable sermons. As with all of her material, they don’t adhere to any particular style – there’s a bit of dancepop, some Pinkesque rock and big, tremulous balladry – and while strong live they inevitably pale before her chart-topping hits Price Tag and Bang Bang, with backing vocalists standing in for Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande on the latter. Jessie’s defining characteristic (which is either impressive or irritating, depending where you stand) is her full-on, melismatic engagement with her music. Now that her inner Essex girl is cracking wise again, we can perhaps look forward to a more balanced J.


Caroline Sullivan

The GuardianTramp

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