So with all the popularity (and not a small amount of notoriety), she pushed her album release date forward, and it came out yesterday in the UK.
And what a vast disappointment it is.
I had my suspicions that things might not go well when I first heard "Price Tag". "Dude" was hilarious, but "Tag" reminded me of something the Spice Girls might have rejected in 1996. The tune itself was clever, but the words (and the arrangement, really) seemed to fall into the "optimistic" school of British pop, as exemplified by all the stars and rainbows thrown out in the early 2000s by the Steps, S Club 7, and many others. Top that with the basic cynicism of the track : Jessie wants us to forget the price tag? Well, it's about 14 pounds British. Not forgetting.
The album confirms my worst fears. There are so many sappy and optimistic songs on this record, that the listener can only come to one conclusion : Jessie has absolutely nothing to say.
She manages not to say it for a near-unbroken set of 13 songs, with only her first single "Dude" standing out. I was hoping for clever and cocky, I got dumb and cocky. There are few worse combinations.
It's almost pointless to discuss the individual tracks here, but I'll try. The best of the lot - and that's not necessarily a compliment - are frontloaded, with "Nobody's Perfect" and "Abracadabra" having arrangements that are, while not unique or innovative in any way, at least tolerable. In these songs, and in "Price Tag", Jessie keeps the squeaking, squalling vocals that she does under control.
It all starts to go downhill with "Big White Room", the first of several sappy ballads on the record. Here, she swoops and swirls with that voice, proving herself a distraction to her own music. The track is actually a live performance, dropped unceremoniously amidst studio tracks, which shows the chutzpah we're dealing with here. She manages to stroke her own ego at the end by intoning "History in front of your eyes, guys!" If it wasn't for the complete self-centeredness of the rest of the album, I'd think she was kidding.
The rest of the album varies between R&B semi-ballads ("Casualty of Love", "LOVE"), sloppy "happy" and "inspirational" tunes ("Rainbow", "Who You Are"), and a couple of minor surprises.
The first of these is "Momma Knows Best", where Jessie struts (and sounds a bit constipated) over a Big Band arrangement. It's a break from the rest of the schlock, but it's also a bad Christina Aguilera imitation.
There's "Who's Laughing Now", addressed to all the haters. It steals a riff from an old early 2000s British R&B song, and once again has a fairly nice arrangement spoiled by stupid lyrics.
Then there's "Do It Like a Dude", which is the only song on the whole album that seems to be aimed at listeners over the age of, say, 12. Jessie's at her best when she's obscene and funny :
"Dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty sucker/You think I can't get her like you, you @#$!" It's not exactly smart, but at least it shows a sense of humor.
So here's the bottom line : Jessie can arrange great tunes, although many of her arrangements are derivative. Lyrically, though, she's an empty vessel - there's simply nothing there. Of course, she IS young, and perhaps she'll get better. Until she starts doing honest material, though, we've got a second-rate British Pink here, and that's too bad.
I give "Who You Are" a measly 4 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.