Sound Bites: Jessie Ware, Plan B
The word “devotion” is perfect for singer Jessie Ware’s debut album. The album throws a curve, especially with songs like “110%,” which blends Ware’s sultry vocals with a chopped and screwed sample from Big Punisher’s “The Dream Shatterer.” The 80s R&B influence is loud and clear with songs like “Sweet Talk” and “Running” sounding like something Sade or the late Whitney Houston would have performed in their prime. There is a dash of club thrown in for good measure that keeps “Devotion” from being one of those desperate to be different records. At times, her restrained vocal delivery comes off a bit shaky but luckily the beats carry the leftover weight. Ware works the diva angle without oversinging or adlibbing the listener to near deafness and the closest thing that comes to that is “Taking In Water,” a standout ballad. The album is more natural, relaxed and in tune with Miss Ware, which for a debut is rare. If it wasn’t for the lack of dubstep and electronic dance music, one could swear that this was the blueprint for Katy B’s “On a Mission.”
Socially-conscious rap has disappeared and hasn’t reared itself in a while. The concepts of swag and YOLO have replaced lyrics questioning the government’s actions and fighting the good fight. British rapper Plan B attempts to push that movement back to the forefront with “Ill Manors.” The album, which doubles as the soundtrack for the movie of the same name, doesn’t present itself as such. It acts more as an extension of the films tale of surviving the streets of East London in utter despair and heart-wrenching desperation. The main themes of drug dealing, prostitution and gangs may seem too after- school special for some, but PB presents it as real as ever, using Al Shux’s dark and bleak production to his advantage. His delivery throughout is fairly textbook except on “Deepest Shame” and “Lost My Way,” where he showcases his singing abilities found on his last album “The Defamation of Strickland Banks.” On the album’s titular track, he addresses the government’s willingness to provide for the world instead of their own citizens. (“Built an entire Olympic village around where we live without pulling down any flats”) and is probably the rapper’s response to The London Riots last summer. It may not be the most popular thing to do at the time, but he should be congratulated for presenting these issues to the masses again.
– Kristopher Jones