London-born songstress, Jessie Ware broke into the music scene in 2012 with her first album “Devotion,” a sultry mix of R&B and electronic pop all tied neatly together with Ware’s impressive vocal ability and sensually emotional lyrics.Happily, her latest release “Tough Love” has avoided the dreaded sophomore slump altogether and if anything, ultimately reinforced her position as a performer who is here to stay.
The title track and her first single off the album sets the mood straight away — you know you’re in for a journey through the messiness and exuberance of falling for someone, including the usually-not-so-delightful aftermath.
“Tough Love” is a breathy, direct narrative to her doubting lover, telling him that she thinks of him constantly contrary to his feeling her love isn’t true. Much like the other songs on the album that express sadness or lingering sorrow about romantic ventures, the lyrics are paired with an upbeat tune, rendering the music to be perhaps the happiest-sounding soundtrack to cry to.
“Cruel” is one of the standouts of the album, featuring Ware offering an ultimatum to her lover while lamenting simultaneously about the pain of waiting in limbo when being strung along.
Infectiously dancey and soulful, the track hearkens to the likes of 80s legends such as Sade and Whitney Houston. “Kind Of … Sometimes … Maybe” also has a strong nostalgic feeling to it, utilizing trance-like instrumentals and Ware’s slow purrs to deliver a deliciously sleepy track on the subject of past lovers.
Surprisingly, “Say You Love Me,” which was penned by both Ware and Ed Sheeran, is perhaps the weakest of the album.
This may be a bit rich to say in the context of an album full of nothing but songs about love, but this track in particular felt generic and formulaic in a Top-40s-bait kind of way — blandly contrived and overwrought with clichés. Despite this, the album suffers absolutely no hits in terms of its quality and ease of flow.
Ware saves the best for last in the album. Wrapping up 43 minutes of soulful melodicism and lyrics of passion is “Desire,” a slow, lush and ridiculously dreamy meditation of a man who has been on Ware’s mind for the longest time.
“You’ve been admired/Do you see me glow?” she asks longingly. Pure emotion drips with every syllable, and pairs perfectly with the minimal instrumental in the background.
It’s easy for songs about love and its trials and tribulations to fall into the trap of mediocrity due to the lack of variety in material, but Ware has managed to overstep this problem with ease for two albums now.
Immersive and emotional, there’s really nothing else you can do with “Tough Love” but grab a glass of your favorite wine or a mug of your favorite hot drink, light some candles and allow yourself to soak into it all completely.
RECOMMENDED: Jessie Ware’s second album is a hugely successful follow-up to her debut. Rich in emotion, strong vocal ability and sensational instrumental production, “Tough Love” is something to be celebrated.