What’s Your Pleasure?
2020 – Pop / Disco
On her fourth album, inspired by disco, the English singer Jessie Ware appears more sensual, fun, cheerful and even more daring.
For her new album, What’s Your Pleasure?, Jessie Ware deconstructed herself, performed a metamorphosis and rose again. She broke down with everything she had been building since the beginning of her career, right after quitting her job as a sports journalist on The Daily Mirror and on The Jewish Chronicle. While on her debut released in 2012, Devotion, she played like a great Pop Star who was totally devoted to the synthetic beats, on her second album, Tough Love, she used her grand voice to talk about a messy love and your problems with these. However, even though her third album, Glasshouse, was born as an ambition to make each track work as a single person within a family, it is her fourth album that stands out as her best.
While in all her other works, Ware worked with an atmospheric sparkling Pop tone that easily flooded everyone’s heads with magical dust and sentimental light beams, What’s Your Pleasure? was born as her most original work. She took the synthesizers but didn’t aim for the future or present, but for the past. What’s Your Pleasure? is totally driven by Disco and Pop influences from the 1970s and 1980s. It’s almost as if Ware was having a party in her apartment in the middle of the 70s and the best and most popular songs were playing on a radio or on a vinyl. For almost an hour, Jessie recounts her romantic, sexual and sensual adventures in the world of love. Wonderfully, this album is not just an immersive experience that takes you back in time when the dance floors glowed so brightly that you could hear it through the records, but rather a sensual and provocative adventure that never tires or feels shy in braiding lyrics with sexual dualities. However, a question before everything: do you accept a drink to experience such dancing sensuality?
One of the strongest points of Ware’s fourth album is the exploration of the sensuality. However, this provocative act does not occur in an open way with lyrics that describe sex scenes, but because of the way she pronounces her words and tastes each time she says “You” and the beats of the entire album that can be easily themed of a film from the 1970s that shows a couple kissing in the middle of the party. The opener, “Spotlight”, is one of the best moments of the entire album. In the beginning, Ware appears singing with his powerful vocals in front of a simple orchestra that magically dissolves into heavy synth disc beats. However, even having one of the most golden moments — like when Jessie sighs “If a dream is just a dream and a dream is just a kiss” at the end alongside an extremely complex but incredibly brilliant instrumental — the most impressive point ends up being song progression. In the beginning, as mentioned, a small shy orchestra that changes every minute into a new thing: in the beginning, a simple dreamy disco beat, in the end, a great machine that mixes the violins of the orchestras, the sober beats of the Disco and the dreamy vocals from Ware. Not only is it the best track to start this journey back in time to the golden moments of the Disco, but it is also one of the best album openers of the year.
Like the first track, the following songs carry their sensuality more in their execution than in their written essence. The title track of the album, “What’s Your Pleasure?”, has less instrumental variety, however, the disc samples shine even stronger in contrast to modern synthesizers that bring new elements to the composition. However, nothing compares when she reaches the chorus and sings almost breathlessly “Push, press, more, less / Here together, what’s your pleasure? / Stop, go, fast, slow / Here together, what’s your pleasure?” or at the end, when she carries her confinement (“I know the way to make you happy / I give you love, you give it back to me”) in a sigh lost in the middle of screaming instruments. Then, the stripped down “Ooh La La” appears with Ware showing vocals even higher, but even more provocative, especially when she releases: “Ooh, la-la, open up the door, you know I like it (Yeah, I like it, yeah, I like it) / Ooh, la-la, chivalry was dead but you revived it “. Although these lines show a more romantic tone, the whole sound part is supported to show something with a double meaning, concretizing one of the strongest characteristics of the album: metaphorical lyrics that are as potent as those that are literary.
However, What’s Your Pleasure? it’s not just about beats that were shining at the top in the past decades, Jessie took the opportunity to take this experimentation of aesthetics from the past to other even more specific and charming levels. While she growls an almost waited request for her love in “Step Into My Life”, her sound aesthetic tends to a Latin side, creating this incredible mix between Disco, Pop and Latin sound from the 80’s that worked perfectly with both the voice of Ware as with the new elements provided by modern synthesizers. Meanwhile, “Soul Control” could easily be seen as one of the most promising and visionary tracks of the time (70s and 80s) for introducing electronic sample that looks like an extremely fast-paced remix of a classic video game soundtrack. Even tracks that are not as innovative, sound very surprising. While Ware designed the chorus for “In Your Eyes” to feel eccentric, “Read My Lips” and “Save a Kiss” shine like a 1970s pop track that sounds sexy and cute at the same time, while mixing a love romance with a little bit carnal desire.
Finally, as much as What’s Your Pleasure? manage to shine tirelessly and uniquely for almost an hour, its biggest weakness ends up being its duration. Although the album is extremely nice and cool to hear, besides being a unique experience these days, there are times when some songs really last longer than they should and, often, the lack of a well-built progression damages everything even more. “Adore You” shows Jessie confident in her relationship that she wants to tell the world about it. Although the lyrics are beautiful, the track itself ends up becoming a little dull, not because of its milder and quieter sound, but because the track was not made in a way that was made the most of it. For a long time, the track consists of repetitions that, even with some weak elements that resemble the past, made the track seem like a simple nowadays song. Even great tracks suffer from it, like “Mirage (Don’t Stop)” which, despite having this incredible mix of past and present, takes time to engage in something really exciting, catchy and dancing.
Fortunately, this problem doesn’t really get in the way of your entire adventure within that time machine that What’s Your Pleasure? is. The end of the album manages to be even better than everything else. “The Kill” has a dense, heavy atmosphere composed of reflexing beats while Ware sounds sober like a poet in a state of love epiphany: “I’ll tell you that you are the one for me / Don’t try to kill me with your love / Don’t kill me with your love / Tell me what you wanna know” and “I’ve been waiting my whole life for someone who makes me feel like you do / It’s complicated, I can’t lie to you”. Closing majestically, “Remember Where You Are”, as well as “The Kill”, is an incredible experience in itself. The final track is a great poetry where physical and soul sensuality is approached (“We are the last ones of our kind / Freedom of our hearts and mind, oh / Yes, let our bodies testify”). It is almost as if she is reaching a new level of understanding about everything. While we have classical instruments making up an almost impeccable orchestra, the background vocals are in charge of giving a Disco touch to the track. It’s one of those tracks that are beautiful and amazing and you rarely know why. And just like What’s Your Pleasure?, is something you should spend more time feeling than trying to understand.