Jessie Ware’s 2012 single “Wildest Moments” earned her an internationally prominent name. Five years later, it has earned her the less flattering title of “a one-hit-wonder.” The artist’s new album “Glass House” teases you with greatness, but in the end, leaves you cold.
Despite the British singer’s multidimensional, soulful voice, she continues to obscure her talent behind maudlin lyrics and busy backtracks. In the song, “Your Domino” Ware’s tones shift skillfully from breathy cords to pointed high notes, and yet the vocals are blurred by quick-paced pop instrumentals. Only to further derail the singer’s depth, the lyrics express hollow, overworked themes with the intro: “if it’s alright I’d like to fall in front of you / and if there’s a fate, tell me it’s you / it’s black and white I don’t know why I’m so confused.”
While the lyrics may be steadily uninspired, each song’s sound seems to belong to a separate aesthetic. Likely this disunity is due to the myriad of artists that collaborated on (“Glass House”) from Justin Bieber, Julia Michaels (“Issues”) and Ryan Tedder (“Counting Stars”) to Benny Blanco, a producer and songwriter most known for the timeless ode “B.O.O.T.A.Y.” Such mainstream, middling names are a surprising shift in standards after Ware’s past collaborations with eccentric and thoughtful musicians like Devonté Hynes of Blood Orange (“Augustine”) and Sampha, with whom she co-wrote the hypnotic single “Valentine.”
One of the only moments on the album when the lyrics and instrumentals support rather than suffocate is the song “Sam” which was written while the singer was in the last trimester of her pregnancy with her first child. Absorbed in the emotions of approaching motherhood, the song is written like a letter addressed to her husband, expressing feelings of both anxiety and gratitude. The intimate, emotive nature of the words are underscored by soft acoustic melodies.
The leading single “Midnight” is another rare moment of harmony with a heavy, pulsating beat eerily reminiscent of “Bennie and the Jets.” While recycling the iconic piano line seems like a cheap shot, Ware warps the track with her raspy, soulful tones creating a strange, almost ethereal effect that accredits the inspiration while venturing into a space of its own.
These fleeting bursts of brilliance are due primarily to the fact that the music is stripped down enough to display Ware’s extraordinary range, leading to the conclusion that “Glass House’s” biggest issues are rooted in the disjointed music and voice. Ware needs to abandon the pop in her pop-soul and let her artistry speak for itself.