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ALBUM REVIEW 'That! Feels! Good!' by Jessie Ware

Far from what we’re used to hearing from Jessie Ware, That! Feels! Good! is the epitome of exploration, both inner and outer. Ware’s 5th studio album brings us the experience we wish we could’ve had with her 4th, What’s Your Pleasure? – the lockdown years are over and we can all make our way to the clubs again at the behest of Ms. Ware.

We begin with the title track, ‘That! Feels! Good!’ which sets the scene beautifully for us. We’re introduced to the overarching themes of this album: sex, freedom, and disco-balls. Ware has us chanting “Just remember, pleasure is a right” with the crowd-like background vocals. The bass has a distinct Teena Marie vibe (‘I Need Your Lovin’’, anyone?), and Ware’s vocals are breathy with a come-hither tone.

‘Free Yourself’, the first single we encounter, is anthemic and loudly proud, giving us Lady Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’ if it had been written in the 80’s/early 90’s. This is where we start to get a sense of the depth of Ware’s writing process, as we notice the climbing melody when she sings “Keep on moving up that mountaintop”. Ware collaborated with Stuart Price on this track; Price is known for an extraordinarily long list of greatest hits, working with artists like Madonna, Rina Sawayama, Kylie Minogue, and so many more. You can feel his early Pop sounds influence, combined with the likes of Clarence Coffee Jr. who’s previous works include a handful of songs from Dua Lipa’s record, Future Nostalgia. When you put the two together you start to understand how That! Feels! Good! got to where it is, and really it’s a masterful collaboration.

The real shining jewel of this album is, of course, Ware’s voice. Not only is there a perfect blend of rap-style voices, but we really get to hear some belters, too. ‘Pearls’ is a perfect example of this; the vocals are reminiscent of Barbara Tucker’s ‘Beautiful People’ (coincidentally Ware has a song on this album with the same name), or even the glorious and renowned Chaka Khan. You get the sense that she’s trying to push her way through a crowded dancefloor with these power notes. Certainly in ‘Pearls’ the vocals are the star of the show, and not just the leads – the background is filled with synth-like, rhythmic singing.

If you liked Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak’s joint venture as Silk Sonic, you’ll most definitely like ‘Hello Love’. Rich and warm in tone, and stepping lightly away from the sex-centric themes we’ve heard up until this point, ‘Hello Love’ is a delicious palate cleanser; the point of the night where everyone has established themselves a partner with which to slow dance. We still retain elements of nostalgia, as fireworks of smooth brass jazzy sounds are being set off in the distance.

Bringing us smoothly back into the more dance-focused mood of the album, ‘Begin Again’ offers us so much. There’s an element of Latin Jazz, with the brass, percussion, and multi-layered backing vocals. Again, Ware displays her vocal prowess; it’s a slow burner but the end is filled with long, drawn out notes that sound like how silk feels. It’s hard to ignore that the message of this song – someone who is realizing their slim chances of achieving their dreams as they are crushed by reality – lines up quite nicely with the style choices of the album. We’re going through a wave of Retro Pop, which we can atribute to artists like Harry Styles, or Taylor Swift, and this resurgence of disco nostalgia begs the question, can we start again?

If ever a song was made to be performed on RuPaul’s Drag Race in a lip-synch battle, it’s ‘Beautiful People’. It’s fast paced, with light-handed percussion consistently playing in the background, but it’s

not overpowering. ‘Beautiful People’ is most definitely a tribute to the LGBTQ+ community that Ware seems to have lovingly craied this album for, and we’re constantly reminded that, indeed, “Beautiful people are everywhere”.

‘Freak Me Now’ touches on a more electronic version of disco that many of us will be familiar with. With this song we are definitely brought more into the modern age, but it’s not too far of a stretch to single it out from the rest. There’s a slightly chaotic element to this track, and if one were to break it down you’d think it’s maybe too much, but everything blends together so seamlessly you wouldn’t even notice.

Up until this point Ware has been hinting at the sexuality of That! Feels! Good! – it may be slightly more obvious in some places, but none more so than ‘Shake The Bottle’. We’re almost verging on explicit feminism with these lyrics, with lines such as “I don't need a rock on my finger or a locket and picture, Or a bottle of nice champagne”, reminding us that we don’t need these things – but we can certainly want them. Ownership of your desires and wishes is powerful, and Ware has tapped into this like a pickaxe to a diamond.

If you’re sitting here thinking to yourself about how much you miss the ‘old’ Jessie Ware, you might want to take a listen to ‘Lightning’. Sweet, breathy vocals that glide through a muted synthesized track, occasionally joined by a choir backing, we’re gettng a glimpse into this decade’s version of ‘Adore You’. You get the feeling that this is settling you down ready for the big finale, and so in that way it’s perfectly placed in it’s track listing position.

‘These Lips’, the final track of the album, is a certainty that Ware knows what she wants, and she’s not going to beat about the bush to get it. Ware’s vocals exude sensuality; this is the climax (pun intended) of the soundtrack, accompanied by trumpet swells and stabs that keep you feeling anticipatory of something more. It’s the musical equivalent of leaving you on a cliffanger.

Ms. Ware has made the transformation from soft, gentle, sweet soul singer to exuberant, stimulating, and vibrant, and we should feel all the better for it. The duality of Ware allows us to explore the idea that we can be more than one thing at a time, and in fact life is far more fun that way. Ware herself is a double-edged sword in the best of ways. She’s mellow and raucous; she’s soul and she’s funk; she’s a mother and she’s mother.

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Jessie Ware's artistic evolution from a soft, soulful singer to an exuberant, vibrant force is nothing short of mesmerizing. Embracing the duality of her musical identity, she invites us to explore the richness of being multifaceted. It's a celebration of the idea that life is more enjoyable when we embrace our many facets. Jessie Ware, a double-edged sword in the best way, effortlessly oscillates between mellow and raucous, soul and funk, capturing the essence of a woman who is both a nurturing mother and a force to be reckoned with in her artistry. And to increase the popularity of this album, you can buy spotify chart ranking plays. 🎤🌟

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