Jessie J’s third album arrives barely a year after her second, ‘Alive’, failed to match the success of 2011’s blockbuster debut ‘Who You Are’. It’s an unusual sign of the times, but at just 26, the effusive chanteuse from Chadwell Heath is already on the comeback trail.
‘Sweet Talker’ takes no chances as it strives to reassert Jessie as a major pop player. Lead single ‘Bang Bang’ teams her with two A-list American stars, Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande, and the album’s 12 tracks were written by a small army of starry pop collaborators, including Max Martin (Britney), Diplo (Beyoncé), and Tricky and The-Dream (Rihanna).
For much of the album, it works. Jessie comes off feisty but fun on opening number ‘Ain’t Been Done’, ‘Fire’ is a dramatic ballad tailor-made for a show-stopping ‘X Factor’ performance, while ‘Burnin’ Up’ and ‘Sweet Talker’ show a more sexually provocative side to the singer. Though as she purrs ‘Baby you look cute when you make my bed,’ she sounds more houseproud than horny.
Sadly, ‘Sweet Talker’ eventually deteriorates into a succession of generic mid-tempo pop stompers, and Jessie’s vocal performances start to feel like triumphs of technique over emotion. There are enough bangers here to secure her comeback, but when she sings ‘You haven’t seen the best of me’ on ‘Masterpiece’, it’s hard to disagree.
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