Ok, so for those of you who have been reading this blog for the past three years know that we here at HiFi Central never shy away from controversy, especially when it means reviewing an album out of our usual genre of metal, rock, electronica, etc. Last year I think we reviewed a Gwar concert and then a Tango album review, so if that doesn’t prove how random and diverse we are here, nothing will.
Much like going to a therapist to reveal some dark hidden secret you have, I must admit (and perhaps, with a bit of guilty pleasure and shame) that I have a place in my heart for what I call “bubblegum music”, yes, the top-40 rotation that often makes your head blow up listening to the same 6 songs over and over, and over. Well, to be honest the only time I indulge in this act is when I have a week off during the summer to paint a room in my house; often involving more than paint, more a rehab and then paint. Regardless, these projects have taken multiple days and I have found myself drawn to the local pop station to get my yearly dose of “bubblegum”; and trust me, a week of this stuff catches me up on the entire year of what’s apparently popular in that genre, ugh. Honestly, as absurd of a cop out as it may sound, it actually has kept me motivated and focused painting a room. The reality is that eventually I have heard enough “bubblegum” to know all the words the song and find myself mumbling like a paraniod schizophrenic. Eventually I complete my home improvement project and then like a hibernating bear, I leave my self-imposed “bubblegum den” and get back to my regular life and what I consider much better music.
So one day, on a lark, I decided to ask someone I knew for the entire Jessie J album just to see if her hit “Price Tag” was a one-hit wonder off the album, and/or whether there may be some merit to this genre after all. I guess my curiousity began with this years MTV music awards show; a show that in the past decade has become more of a goofy spectacle of spoiled rotten musicians pandering to clearly a tween population. Having said this, I was flicking channels one night and came across the show and figured I would watch for a few minutes. I mean, the only thing more entertaining than the MTV music awards show is watching Billy Mays selling Mighty Putty or perhaps, a hot poker to the eye, your choice. However, the most entertaining portion of the show was Jessie J belting out her own songs and covers during the intermissions between performances, and the chick can sing! I was honestly in disbelief; there she was sitting on a mock throne belting out these songs and wearing a leg brace. Sadly, MTV only showed a snippet of her performances and then faded out to commercial, in my humble opinion SHE was the show and everyone else was her filler, pretty awesome.
Who You Are is a solid album intially but as usual with pop albums it too gets weaker towards the end. British born Jessie J (who’s real name is Jessica Ellen Cornish) had been writing songs for other artists over the past few years and remained out of the limelight either by choice or simply timing. As a debut album, Who You Are creates for the listener a lively assortment of Cornish’s vocal range and talent, along with very catchy beats and tempo’s. The first three songs on the album (Price Tag, Nobody’s Perfect, and Abracadabra) are well placed and provide a fun introduction to a variety of unique beats and Cornish’s ability to sing over and with everpresent time changes. Price Tag is a fun song and appeared to be the signature song of the album and was heavily played on rotation. It is apparent that Cornish sings with a geniune amount of emotion and passion with each of her song’s, and this can be especially reflected with the song Nobody’s Perfect.
The album takes a detour with a live performance of Big White Room; I feel that this was very clever on Cornish’s part since it provides some real authenticity to her album and ability to sing. “Authenticity” is something I feel is often lacking from most pop performers; their great in the studio yet terrible on stage; clearly not for Cornish. At first listen, I had no idea that it was a live performance until the crowd erupted with applause.
The next song Casualty of Love is ok, a bit mellow yet appropriately placed in the middle of the album, it is clearly a soulful ballad with its own merits deserved. The song Rainbow brings the listener back to the upbeat tempo of a classic pop album, it’s nothing really worth noting other than its beat. To be brutally honest, it feels like a blatant corny ethical message about racial equality and how we are “all colors of the rainbow”. barf! Perhaps this would appeal to Roy G. Biv or leprechauns but for me it just feels cheezy, the listener will be forced to skip to the next song in anticipation of something better.
Who’s Laughing Now is clearly Cornish’s personal statement and moment of justification towards all of those who ever doubted her talent or dreams now that she has made it. Although it’s a fun song it feels very plastic and childish; not what I would consider her best song; I would have left it for a b-side. Do It Like A Dude is a song with a good beat, but it makes me feel uncomfortable to play anywhere other than my car with the windows rolled up. In this song Cornish does her best to singilke she’s tough and attempts to compare herself to being able to “do it like”a brother”, huh, what? At one point Cornish attempts a reggae-dancehall accent, although a noble attempt it is probably best left to the professionals from Jamaica. If she sang this at the MTV music awards I can only imagine what Little Wayne, Jay Z, Rihanna and Nikki Minaj must have been thinking about some white British chick singing about “doin’ like a brother”? While it’s a interesting song, again, I think it’s where her album begins its downward slump.
Song’s like Mama Knows Best, L.O.V.E, and Stand Up are nothing worth writing about and actually create for the album a repetative quality and where I begin to lose interest very quickly once again (sigh). Perhaps the only redeeming quality is the song I Need This, since once again it shows off her vocal talents and is not too over produced. The last track is the title-track of the album Who You Are, and while a good way to end an album on a mellow note, it seems more appropriately placed in a movie soundtrack compilation, it’s good, but not mind-blowing.
The album starts off well with the first 5 or 6 songs and then quickly, as most pop albums, becomes all the same often making the listener fall in love with the just the hits and disregarding the filler. As I mentioned before, Cornish is very talented and I think that she has my respect after watching the MTV music award performances, but her album is fun for only a few select songs.
Jessie J’s Who You Are gets 3.0 out of 5