English singer Jessie J first began to receive attention back in 2011 with powerhouse tracks such as “Do it Like a Dude” as well as the eternally catchy “Price Tag.” Now she’s back with her third full album “Sweet Talker,” which, for the most part, hits the mark. With tracks ranging from pseudo-electric dance tunes to romantic ballads, the singer shows off her ability as a diverse and flexible artist.
The first four opening tracks “Ain’t Been Done,” “Burnin’ Up,” “Sweet Talker” and the hugely popular “Bang Bang” featuring Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj are consistent with Jessie’s trademark style. They are bold, confident and entirely conscious of the apparent arrogance in both the lyrics and the composition of the beats.
“Burnin’ Up” could have arguably been stronger if rapper 2Chainz had not been featured. With inane lyrics like “Me and my homie on the damn floor/ White girl in the middle, looking like an Oreo,” his part very much downgrades the song and significantly detracts from Jessie’s powerful female voice.
The following tracks, “Fire” and “Personal,” are softer and focus more on Jessie’s vocal ability than anything else. They reveal a much more romantic side of the singer than has been previously seen and are demonstrative of her ability to evolve as a vocalist.
“Seal Me with a Kiss” is a standout track, as it features a surprising yet entertaining hint of a retro groove. The track incorporates part of De La Soul’s ’80s track “Me Myself and I,” which samples from the ’70s band Funkadelic’s song “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” The pulsing rhythm is complementary to the singer’s voice, which, with its raspy soulfulness, perfectly mixes with the instrumental’s era.
Sadly, the latter half of “Sweet Talker” somewhat falls flat, more as a result of poor production than fault in Jessie’s vocal ability. “Said Too Much” is heavily overproduced, especially during the chorus. The beats of the song seem to be in competition with Jessie’s voice rather than harmonizing with it. Part of this is a result of the producer’s choice to stack the singer’s already powerful vocals, which consequentially makes the whole track sound messy and excessive.
Despite being enjoyable to listen to, tracks “Loud” and “Keep Us Together” are rather forgettable. Had both tunes been left out of the album, not much would be missed but a padding of the album with what sounds just like any other standard pop song. They are disappointingly predictable tracks to be added to what could otherwise have been a largely intriguing and experimental album.
I would consider “Your Loss I’m Found” to be one of the weakest songs out of the entire album. It is trite in composition, and frankly it is just boring to listen to. Even Jessie’s incredible vocal range is not enough to salvage this one.
“Strip,” another classic sassy and fun dance tune, is oddly placed in the track list. It would have been much more fitting for it to have been introduced earlier with the first four opening tracks. The fact that it precedes “You Don’t Know Me,” the final song of the album, which is much more vulnerable in subject matter and simple in sound, makes its location seem even more extrinsic.
However, even though “Sweet Talker” has a number of faults, the album as a whole is fairly solid, mostly because there are a number of really good songs that have the potential to become timeless. Jessie J is never stale in her creativity, and she has established herself as an artist who continues to make hits and stay relevant by allowing herself to develop both as a vocalist and as a writer.