Jessie J - Sweet Talker

by Matthew Graham

There is no question in my mind that Jessie J has a voice to be reckoned with. Having witnessed her Alive Tour, I can confirm that she is a gifted performer, able to hit every note with blaring accuracy and command the entire stage. So why, when it comes to her albums, am I so disappointed? The answer, I fear, is a pure lack of truly decent material. And this is furthered with the knowledge that she has in the past written decent pop songs such as Price Tag and Domino. So I found myself nearly begging, why can’t she repeat this on Sweet Talker? Instead, what we are given is a thoroughly safe album from Cornish (the singer’s real surname); while the sound is pleasing enough, Jessie J stays firmly within her comfort zone.

The best few tracks have been clustered at the beginning, thus luring us into a false sense of promise for the rest of the album. Sweet Talker opens with Ain’t Been Done in a blaring pseudo-gangster bravado that melts into a sweet, melody driven pop hook. Lead single, Bang Bang, onomatopoeically features the powerful voice of Ariana Grande, in what feels like a competition between both to hit the highest decibel levels. For me, the addition of Nicki Minaj felt futile on Bang Bang, and despite its accolade of reaching Number 1 in the UK, I reckon Jessie J can do much better. Furthermore, it is unfortunate that Cheryl Cole released Crazy Stupid Love before Sweet Talker, as Burning Up is an almost identical copy, complete with token rap bridge courtesy of 2. Chainz. In fact, you could probably switch the vocals with the instrumentals and you would have basically the same song. Plus Cheryl’s song pips Jessie’s because of a better chorus.

On this record, Cornish’s sound seems to have settled more than on previous albums, most notably from debut, Who You Are, which was essentially a collection of songs for other pop stars. Of course, genre-wise, this is a pop album through and through, but most songs have that R&B styling that Jessie J is known for. Having said this, I felt that there were places where Cornish showed a more experimental side to her musicality. Title track, Sweet Talker, is a quirky blend of anthemic ballad and trance-styled riffs; while this does work, it might have come off better if each element were stronger in their own right, rather than being washed out slightly by each other. Fire also follows in this pattern, but tries a little too hard to be moving. It falls short by being lyrically empty. Sure, her voice tumultuously soars over the song, but the constant repetition of “Fire” as the chorus doesn’t quite connect with me.

After this, the album veers into filler territory. Masterpiece is, ironically, considerably nondescript; despite the funky, up-tempo guitar licks of Seal Me With A Kiss, the song is easily forgettable. In fact, the feature from De La Soul far outshines Jessie J, yet it’s still almost not worth waiting for. Loud is horribly annoying, and Said Too Much harks back sonically to the early 00s ballad. The former glory of Who You Are is echoed in Personal and was, in my opinion, the best track in the boggy patch of fillers. In addition, what sounds like Bruce Hornsby and The Range’s hit, The Way It Is, appears to crop up in the piano line of Keep Us Together, yet hashed out for a more contemporary audience.

The three bonus tracks on the deluxe version should have been substituted for a few of the aforementioned tracks. The sunny Strip harked back to Stand Up, and You Don’t Really Know Me was pretty similar to Big White Room - both form her debut, thus adding a tinge of nostalgia. Ultimately, if what you’re looking for in an album is a standard pop fix, then Sweet Talker by Jessie J is a good choice for you. There are no nasty surprises, yet there aren’t really any particularly great ones either. For me, as I know What Jessie J is capable of vocally, I felt Sweet Talker was pretty lacklustre and ultimately, forgettable. I don’t think I will listen to it again.