Jessie Ware - Tough Love

by Shannon Smith

The problem with Tough Love is simple: it’s all just a bit too vulnerable for my taste. There, I said it. Ware’s heartfelt lyrics are always so softly spoken – almost a whisper at points within Tough Love. It all seems like a watered down approach to her striking lyrics. Yet, that is not to say that the album is bad, because there are moments of heart-pounding greatness throughout Ware’s scribblings. I cannot say this is the album I expected Ware to produce. If you listen to her collaborations with Disclosure etc., she has a bit more oomph - not only in her vocals, but also in the production value of the tracks.

I am not one for Ware’s overtly displayed vulnerability. The titular song opens the album in a mellow and slightly - for want of a better word - screechy way. The chilled out vibes from the backing track act as a literal contradiction for the emotive words used by Ware: “You had me crying out for more”. Ware seems to have a tendency - even in the earliest stages of the album - to use a rather grating vocal pitch. It may sound as though I’m nitpicking a tad, but the sentiment runs deep. This self-indulgent moaning appears on Kind Of… Sometimes… Maybe, and also on Want Your Feeling especially.

Once I overcame the general moaning and vulnerability of the record, I reached a point of toleration and - shock horror! - even something bordering on enjoyment (though it must be said that this was only enjoyment in relative comparison to the first half of the album). The second half of the album is significantly better than the preceding tracks. Pieces is a particular favourite of mine. The general sense of vulnerability that tortured me throughout the earlier parts of the album seemed suddenly to fit the mood. Plus, the screeching was not so migraine-inducing, and suddenly I felt a glimmer of hope. Was I having an epiphany regarding Jessie Ware, I pondered?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. In Keep On Lying To Me, I was sure that even Ware was getting a bit bored of herself. Champagne Kisses was average at best – it may have pleased me before I heard Pieces, but after knowing what she was capable of, I now expected more (and the screeching made an unwelcome return). Desire, to be a stickler for puns, was undesirable at best.

Overall, I cannot help but be a bit dismayed by this record. A part of me thinks that Ware could have produced more. I described to a friend in the queue to Timepiece the other day: “It’s like someone took her bottle… It’s like drinking wine out of a brown paper bag!” I think this sums things up pretty neatly.