With Devotion, Jessie Ware established herself as one of the most powerful female vocalists the United Kingdom had to offer. Her voice oozed class, a certain grandeur which can’t be taught, or learnt. Each record on the album blossomed with rich instrumentation courtesy of The Invisible’s Dave Okumu, telling stories of love and heartbreak.
From start to finish, Ware seduced with her sensual and soulful musings as introspective electronic beats served as a backdrop; giving Devotion a place in Pitchfork’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade so far as well as being nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize and numerous BRIT Awards (Best Breakthrough and Best British Female Solo Artist).
Fast forward a couple of years, and we’re on the brink of hearing her highly anticipated follow up; Tough Love. Having already dazzled with the album’s title-track, the same cannot be said for Ware’s latest single, ‘Say You Love Me’ which came out this past weekend.
At its core, the track is a simple ballad, boosted by the songstress’ exceptional vocal control and depth. Production duo and long-time collaborators BenZel (made up of Benny Blanco and Two Inch Punch) create a rather pleasant atmosphere of guitar lines and a soft, crackling beat for Ware to yearn over her love with those gorgeous tones: “Baby it looks as though we’re running out of words to say / And love’s floating away” she pleads in the chorus.
Written in New York with fellow Brit and acclaimed songwriter Ed Sheeran in under an hour, forty-five minutes to be exact, the solemnity and emotion in the lyrics are evident and presented beautifully through the vocal delivery. But with everything in mind, the song seems to lack originality. Yes, it’s a straightforward, radio-ready number which everyone can relate and sing along to, but you can’t help but recoil under the clichéd arrangement and overall feel.
Whilst the better part of the single shines, it’s the latter half, where a choir joins in and we see Ware attempting to find blooming heights, which really disappoints. Jessie loses that spark which ignited our love for her in the first place; the way she managed to illustrate a sentiment without having to come across as forced or overly extravagant seems to be missing in ‘Say You Love Me’.
And so, by playing it safe, the simplicity of the track proves as both its strength, and weakness. ‘Say You Love Me’ is a slight blemish in Tough Love, on what otherwise, is shaping up to be a stunning album.