Unearthed: Jessie Ware— Devotion
Posted in Unearthed
The other night, I made the very bold decision to wear my tallest pair of heels out to drinks with my friends. They're a good six inches high, including the raised platform, which makes them by far the tallest heels I have ever worn. They're shaped kind of like this.
When I say these heels are taller than any heels I've ever worn, I mean that I don't really wear heels, ever. The only pair of heels I own besides these colossal ankle breakers are: 1. a pair of creepers with a platform of uniform length, like this,, which don't really count because the heel isn't higher than the toe, and 2. a pair of black two-inch patent leather heels I wore to funerals and formal dinners during high school. In fact, my mother bought me these very tall steels because she said I needed a pair of "FMN" shoes, which she said stands for "Fuck Me Now," and apparently my shoe collection was not as sexy as a young woman's shoe collection should be. Putting on these heels is always a stressful and ungraceful experience, especially for the first few hours, when I am hobbling around like a baby giraffe and concentrating so hard on not falling on my ass in the middle of New York City that I break a sweat.
I wish I could walk in these heels. I wish I could make it look effortless, and I wish I didn't stumble in them about once every 10 blocks, but in my heart of hearts I know I am not a heels kind of a girl, and I'm not sure that I can train myself to be that way. I identify more with this gif than with this gif, and that is one of the reasons why I will never truly love Jessie Ware's debut album, Devotion.
Yes, it's a good album, one of my favorite LPs to see a release this year. I like the sultry vibes laced into the plodding beat on "Devotion," the sparkly R&B sashay of "Sweet Talk," and I can't shake the hook from "Running" out of my head. I especially love Julio Bashmore's effervescent and always-brilliant production on "110%," which sounds a bit like Joy Orbison making a cute pop song. Devotion appeals to my taste for dance and R&B without completely losing touch with rock, sort of like The xx, which makes it a very easy record to listen to because it attracts many shades of taste. Ware's songwriting alienates as few listeners as possible by blending R&B with dance music and a band to back her up, and it really works.
But that's also where Devotion fails. There's nothing not to like here, except maybe the alternative rock guitar twanging away on "Night Light" that sounds like it has been sculpted and affected a little too much. Devotion is a perfectly inoffensive and perfectly safe record, one with no edge and perhaps a bit too much crossover appeal that splays out in every direction to resonate strongly with me. The most Ware has to offer in terms of substance is the potent sexuality in her music: All the tracks on the album are shrouded in layers of dramatic sound, set to the pace of meaningful lovemaking, and overlaid with her own rich, beautiful, voluptuous vocals—except for "110%," which has a tempo closer to the speed at which bunnies fuck.
As I tottered toward the subway on these Goddamn stilts my mother bought me and listened to Jessie Ware's LP, I could feel my attention slipping. The initial excitement her album had inspired was fading fast as I realized that song after song smacked of this cocksure femininity (no pun intended?) that I can't seem to replicate, try as I might. It makes me envy and admire Jessie Ware for achieving a sense of natural-born sexiness that I can't quite reach, but it gets boring quickly.
I don't mean to say that I find feminine sexuality uninteresting, because I suppose it is. It's a bit foreign to me, which makes me curious, plus the fact that I've had to read a number of sociological/biological/cultural analyses of femininity as a phenomenon for classes. It's more that I feel like robust womanliness (or manliness, for that matter) isn't intriguing enough on its own to make a whole entire album captivating—maybe an EP, but a full-length needs more depth. Devotion is a solid effort, but it's a bit too one-dimensional and shallow in that it kind of flattens her personality into this pancake of sex appeal and sweetness that is delicious, but not filling. Being girly is only fun and exciting for so long before my feet start to hurt and I find myself debating walking through a subway station and the East Village barefoot.
Purchase Jessie Ware's album Devotion on iTunes