Jessie Ware’s second studio album Tough Love is just as the title suggests, an exploration of love at its best and worst moments. Channeling the more progressive sounds of today’s pop music, Tough Love holds an authenticity because of Ware’s angelic vocals. Layered over synth pop beats, the 11-track album displays Ware’s talents as a singer/songwriter by showcasing her ability to dedicate an entire album to one topic, incorporating sounds identifiable with Top 40 hits—all without making a clichéd pop album. The sincerity of Ware’s vocals transfix her listeners as her lyrics ooze with sentiment and affection.
Much of Tough Love makes use of ringing and binging computer generated sounds blended with the keyboard heavy foundation of the album’s 11-tracks. Combined, the sounds mimic snapping or stomping, with an added intergalactic magic. The polished pop music enhances the real highlight of the album—Ware’s vocals.
Ware’s singing is strong; one moment she’s wailing high, clear notes, and the next she’s crooning velvety low notes that propel her songs beyond the norm.
Ware takes potentially overdone concepts of love and uses the clarity of her voice to enhance her songs beyond what the lyrics are expressing with her uniquely, simplistically genius love song equation. You get what Ware is feeling, not because the lyrics are telling you, but because her voice has the ability to convey what the lyrics aren’t able to. In “You & I Forever,” Ware shows frustration when she cries out, “Don’t wanna start the thought of you and I forever/Sometimes you’ve gotta push to start/Then we’re gonna go until the wheels fall off/Can you see it/It’s forever.” The lyrics alone get the point across, but Ware’s humming during the pauses between lyrics, and her escalating powerful voice is what’s most effecting as she climbs her begging with the progression of the song.
Even mixing up the topic of “love” songs on the album risks the result of lyrics riddled with clichés and seemingly forged babbling. Ware makes sure her album is neither of those things by eliciting help from artists like Sam Smith, Kid Harpoon, Blood Orange, Dave Okumu, and Ed Sheeran during the production of Tough Love. The one acoustic-based song on the album, “Say You Love Me,” was a song Ware and Sheeran wrote and produced together. The song sneaks in occasional electric keyboard for a poppier beat as Ware hauntingly sings, “Just say you love me/Just for today/Don’t give me time/Cause that’s not the same/I want to feel burning flames when you say my name/I want to feel passion flowing into my bones/Like blood through my veins.” The track quickly transitions from acoustic guitar to an impassioned choir echoing Ware as she wails the song’s chorus and adopts the most emotionally vulnerable tone on Tough Love.
Tough Love could have been another pop album lacking necessary emotional value and littered with insignificant beats layered over one another to create a “pop” sound. However, the album mixed and layered with the intention of emphasizing, rather than masking, Ware’s vocals. She crafted an album that showcases the potential for compelling work in her artistic future.
Jessie Ware – Tough Love tracklist:
- “Tough Love”
- “You & I Forever”
- “Say You Love Me”
- “Sweetest Song”
- “Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe”
- “Want Your Feeling”
- “Keep On Lying”
- “Champagne Kisses”