Jessie Ware, ‘Devotion’ – Album Review
It’s easy to hear why the British press and music fans fell head over heels in love with Jessie Ware when the 28-year-old singer’s debut album was released in the U.K. last year. ‘Devotion’ is the real deal, a modern electronic soul album as unassuming as it is a sterling showcase for Ware’s rich, warm voice. It’s also an expert example of restrained, elegant pop production that glides alongside Ware every step of the way.
Now that ‘Devotion’ is finally available in the U.S., with two new previously unreleased tracks as bait for fans who bought the import last year, it’s time to catch up. Ware takes no time reeling you in. On the opening title song, she slips into a smoky croon as drops of liquid synth pop trickle over, beneath and beside her. It’s a lovely moment and a perfect introduction to this terrific debut.
‘Devotion’ doesn’t let up. It’s subtle, majestic and glowing with dance-pop beats that casually turn to smooth grooves. Modern R&B hasn’t sounded this classic for most of the new millennium. Ware and her producers, notably Dave Okumu and Kid Harpoon, stitch 50 years of soul music with modern elements – most of the music is held together with lush synth strings and deep bass drops – for a record that’s as timeless as it is forward-looking.
The album’s best songs ooze into their sophisticated surroundings: the ghostly ‘Wildest Moments,’ ‘Running’’s pulsating rhythm, the illuminating ballad ‘Night Light,’ the skittering ‘If You’re Never Gonna Move.’ Each finds that sweet spot between quiet-storm elegance and stylish synth pop. And each is pulled along by Ware’s mournful voice, which falls somewhere between Sade’s and Adele’s.
By the end of the album -- which plays like the U.K. version except for the two new songs, including a remix featuring A$AP Rocky, that are tacked on at the end – a bit of sameness seeps in. But Ware never sounds bored, and ‘Devotion’ rarely slips off track. This is a vocal showcase that’s bright, sensual and in control of the wealth of sounds that encircle it. On the new ‘Imagine It Was Us,’ she sings, ‘I don’t know if this is love, but I think it’s worth a try.’ We couldn’t agree more.