“Why is everybody so serious?” wondered Jessie J on her early hit, Price Tag. For a while, at one of two London comeback shows this week, she looked as if she was joining them.
After a long piano introduction she strode slowly onto the stage, all in black, face like thunder, and sang her hymn to self-worth, Who You Are. Later she performed a brand new song, Think About That, which appeared to be a very specific attack on someone with whom she used to work: “You’re a shark, a cheat, a traitor.”
The song’s jazzy piano licks, restless rhythm and palpable anger made it a serious leap from the Essex singer’s chart-topping reign towards the start of this decade. Her current tour is intended to build buzz for her fourth album, coming next year and called R.O.S.E. (it stands for “Realisations, Obsessions, Sex, and Empowerment”).
It may also be her attempt to try out some lesser venues for size, for she seemed to realise that the new material won’t have the same mass appeal of her strident pop songs such as Domino, Bang Bang and Do It Like a Dude. “I didn’t want to give up music, I wanted to give up the bullshit,” she said of her newfound desire to step outside the pop machine. “I had to go deep inside myself.”
Another new song, Not My Ex, demonstrated her unlikely makeover by being relatively understated and a little dull. A third, Real Deal, was better, a classy hip hop-soul groove.
Elsewhere, this childhood West End star was the familiar theatrical character of old. A former judge on The Voice, she often still sang like one of the talent show’s competitors, trying to cram all her most impressive vocal tricks and acrobatics into a two minute window. Between songs, however, she was reliably endearing, mixing anti-bullying, children-are-our-future speeches with some excellent jokes.
None of the new songs have hit the charts yet, which must be worrying her. However, if it leaves her with more evenings like this one, interacting one-to-one with a smaller crowd that noisily adores her, she can’t be too miserable.