Who You Are – Jessie J (2011)


Jessie J is a singer/songwriter from London who released her debut album “Who You Are” in 2011 following much hype on social media forums such as youtube.

The hype received was generally down to her ability to use a wide range of vocal gymnastics as well as a strong look with a Cleopatra style haircut (or Mystic Meg).

The first single released from the album was “Do It Like Dude”. This was Jessie’s arrival on the music scene and it was accompanied by a video which was to give a bit of shock value.

“Do It Like a Dude” is essentially an attempt at a feminist anthem. The song highlights the way women are treated differently especially when it comes to sex.

“I can do it like a brother
Do it like a dude
Grab my crotch, wear my hat low like you”

The song is totally out of place on this album despite being the most creative. I consider this false advertising as nothing Jessie J did on this album or in her subsequent two offerings veered anywhere near this song.

The Jessie J on “Do It Like A Dude” would have been appalled to see the weakness and vulnerability on tracks such as “Who’s Laughing Now” which is Jessie J hitting back at those who have mocked her ambitions. It seems to be a tale of things that happened at school. Personally the fact she is a pop star should negate any need to make such songs. It is the equivalent of going “Na na na na na”.

Songs of this ilk are prominent throughout the album. The title track deals again with insecurities and preaching to people to not lose who you are. Whilst I understand that albums are meant to be a way for the artist to get their feelings down, I cannot help but think Jessie J could have shown a lot more defiance in her lyrics considering “Do It Like A Dude” showed that she has this in her locker.

In terms of feel good pop songs the album does offer a few bright moments with “Price Tag” and “Abracadabra” showing a positivity which evades her on much of the set. “Abracadabra” is a sweet radio friendly track which follows a formulaic pop song sound. It’s extremely catchy and I like the simply piano which keeps the song together.

“Price Tag” became a big hit and it’s easy to see why with a hook like that. The song is simple in it’s content with the standard mantra about doing it all for the love instead of the money.

“It’s not about the money, money, money
We don’t need your money, money, money
We just wanna make the world dance,
Forget about the price tag”

“Nobody’s Perfect” is about our character apologizing for letting someone down. She herself is now going through a tough time and believe this is karma for how she has treated someone else previously. She defends herself by saying that she did not mean to hurt anyone and whilst she hates that she has let them down nobody’s perfect and she wants to be forgiven.

Its a tad overly dramatic although her voice shows a strained emotion in the chorus which gives good connectivity between her lyrics and her performance.

“Big White Room” is a song about a young boy who shared a ward with her when she was young. The boy died and this is her reaction to it. The song is recorded live and put on the album. For the first verse and chorus she performs well but the second verse sees her veer off into silly vocal gymnastics which completely take away the seriousness of the song.

“Casualty Of Love” is a delve into the R&B side of Jessie J. It’s a pleasant” if ordinary song. Her voice stays on a normal level for most of the song but for me it actually exposes a quite unremarkable voice because without all the fanfare of saying a simple lyrics with 10 seconds of screaming like a cat there isn’t much to it.

“Rainbow” is awful. It seems to be a song about someones struggle but the lyrics and delivery is just tediously annoying.

“We’re the colours of the rainbow (yeah, yeah)
Let’s share our pot of gold
We’re the colours of the rainbow (yeah, yeah)
Everybody’s on the yellow brick road”

“Mama Knows Best” is the best produced song on the album. The use of the horns and that big band feel really sound excellent. But then Jessie J sings. The song requires a big vocal no doubt, but there is a way to control things and the thing she does when she sounds like she is freezing cold and her teeth are almost chattering is infuriating.

“L-O-V-E” starts off with the lyrics

“I said I’d never write a song about love
but when it feels this good
a song fits like a glove”

This is the worrying moment when I tell my speaker to fuck off.

“Stand Up” is similar to “Price Tag” in quite a lot. They sound vaguely similar and the message is again positive. I do have some issues with her lyrics though:

“‘Cause you’re as old as you feel you are
And if you don’t reach for the moon you can’t fall on the stars
So I live my life like every day is the last, last, last”

My issue is that on a number of tracks on the album it is clear she isn’t living her life as the last. In fact she is procrastinating over things that have happened to her in the past which seem quite painful considering she cannot let them go despite her fortunes changing dramatically for the better.

“I Need This” was an album track on Chris Brown’s album in 2009. Jessie J wrote this song and clearly thought her version needed including on her own album. It’s a bit of a borefest no matter what version you listen to.

The deluxe edition of the album has “Domino” and “Laserlight” which were both hits for Jessie J. Both these songs are a world away from where she began and sound like Katy Perry cast off’s.

The title track “Who You Are” sees Jessie strip things down where he voice is the most prominent instrument. The song is so shouty in the chorus I had to turn the volume down as I was concerned my ear drum may burst.

Jessie J shows on “Who You Are” that she is a conflicted artist. She never seems to know what she wants to do. She isn’t good enough to be a massive female vocalist like a Mariah or Whitney. She doesn’t have the sex appeal to be like Katy Perry and she doesn’t have the songwriting ability of Adele.

She has struggled since this album to make an impact but the fact is the problems were here on her debut with a messy album of contradictory lyrics and messy flow.



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