Jessie had one of 2013’s big surprise hits with her stellar debut “Devotion”. Lead out of the traps with the glorious “Wildest Moments”, Jessie’s soulful voice and 80’s inspired funk-riffs were very much of their time and she was a sleeper hit.
So the second album rolls around, expectations are higher and the production values are just as rich as they were for the debut album, her music has never been raw. Jessie’s voice remains her strongest atribute. Lush, sensitive and with a power that means she can deliver even with a so-so song, Jessie Ware is one of the better young singers out there at the moment.The song writing is a bit more patchy though and the whole album feels a bit more poppy. Fewer chances are taken and whilst it’s still got her voice to lend it weight, often the songs come across as a bit insubstantial.
The eponymous title track “Tough Love” starts things off on a high note as the slow, soulful and emotionally charged vocals are laid out amongst a dreamy, ambient sound. Things kick up a bit in the second track, “You and I (Forever)” which is more upbeat and features some nice production values. This track is much more mainstream but still has the rich sound one expects from a Jessie Ware song.
On “Cruel”; the pace quickens to a more funky dance infused track that harks back a bit more to the first album. Jessie delivers the fairly uninspired lyrics with some passion but the whole track feels a bit flat.
Things get slower and a bit more sensuous with “Say You Love Me”. Jessie’s voice is used a bit better here and there’s a touch of the torch song here with smoky guitar playing in the background. But the whole song is still quite poppy.
The slow, mournful “Sweetest Song” is another 80’s throwback and has a slow, R+B influenced beat. It’s a decent enough track but again lacks a punch. “Kind of Sometimes Again” is much the same, a bit more upbeat but nothing special at all.
The oriental sound of “Want Your Feeling” breaks up the sugary sound of the previous two tracks and the vocals weave around a nice piano tune that plays gently. There’s a downbeat 80’s tone to the song but this is one of the better tracks on the album.
Melodramatic but enjoyable, “Pieces” layers cliché upon cliché and is one of the ten million songs written about love. Jessie does very well with the cliched lyrics and manages to make the song surprisingly moving.
A simple drum-machine riff that builds up in “Keep On Lying” is quite cute but the song really doesn’t have much to help it stand out, besides Jessies vocals that soar above the, frankly, banal music.
The slow, rich “Champagne Kisses” has beautiful lyrics and the music reaches the same peaks and the song, whilst a bit overblown is really quite a nice way to close out the album.
The reflective, atmospheric “Desire” closes the album out with a bit more imagination than that had preceeded. But the whole album is a bit of a disappointment as the music and lyrics seldom reach the same power and passion as the vocals. Jessie Ware has an amazing voice but until she finds a way to tailor her music to her a bit more, it’ll be the one stand out of a disappointingly ordinary album.