What’s Your Pleasure reinterprets the sound of early 80s dance music with tremendous success.
Credit: Jessie Ware / Virgin/EMI Records
Verdict: Opulent, euphoric, dancefloor heaven.
It’s a 9/10 folks! We have our first Album of the Year 2020 contender.
I’m a sucker for clubbing. I live for the fantasy that a few drinks and a great DJ can suddenly take you to, and I’m convinced Jessie Ware does too.
Just look at her staring back at you on that album cover. Ware’s expression has authority with a sense of mystery. You could imagine her catching your gaze on a night out as she walks into the unassuming entrance of a secretive nightclub; you know that what lies beyond that door can only be opulent, euphoric, dancefloor heaven.
And suffice to say, that’s exactly what she delivers. ‘What’s Your Pleasure’ is a breathtaking record that joins the new wave of sophisticated disco pop we’re seeing from many artists these days. Ware’s contribution is an utterly compelling reinterpretation of early 80s dance music.
“…its production is grand, majestic, utterly exquisite, giving every track refined taste.”
Of all the eras to take inspiration from, that is a very good one in my books. Club culture in the early 80s found itself on the tailend of Disco, with its more radio-suited Boogie evolution taking the lead. The Contemporary RnB scene was rapidly expanding around then as well. It was a time that gave us the likes of Shalamar, Patrice Rushen, Chaka Khan, Loose Ends and many more.
But whereas their sound shines with gold-plated extravagant glitz, ‘What’s Your Pleasure’ opts to dial that down. Don’t get me wrong, this album glows with retro charm, but its production is grand, majestic, utterly exquisite, giving every track refined taste. Ware doesn’t need to sit behind instrumentation filled with massive synths, her high class enigma does all the talking here.
Within moments, you’re uncannily transported to downtown on a Saturday night, carried by the boujiness of a luxury saloon car and a stunning outfit. She details the scene with lines that just beg to be strutted along to – “Chivalry was dead // But you revived it” catching your attention on the Grace Jones-inspired “Ooh La La”, whilst the chorus on ‘Step Into My Life’ urges you to move.
“…[Soul Control] leaves you comprehending how anything this good could be legal. “
It’s when she really delivers on the beats that things get stratospheric. ‘Soul Control’, the centrepiece of the record, was practically written to own a name as classic as that. Its infectious synth riff and instantly catchy lyrics build and build, until the tension breaks on the incredible chorus, leaving you comprehending how anything this good could be legal.
And ‘delivering’ doesn’t just mean on the faster cuts; the grandeur of the Sister Sledge-sounding beat of closer ‘Remember Where You Are’ has me struggling for words. That is a true million-dollar chorus right there folks.
“The glitz and gold is turned down, but the opulence is retained.”
The success of ‘What’s Your Pleasure’ is how well it reworks the iconic sound of Disco, Boogie and Contemporary RnB, making room both for serious floor fillers, softer moments and charmingly cheesy cuts like ‘Read my Lips’. The glitz and gold is turned down, but the opulence is retained. Ware commands such a presence on every cut without giving it all away, always holding her position as a mysterious, glamorous disco goddess.
The trick is that every moment is clearly so full of passion for this sort of music, and when the talents of herself, her band and her producers all align, it leaves you speechless in its quality.
In my view, there’s an element of fantasy in any great night out. Believing that you’re at the best bar or club on earth listening to the best music, in the best clothes and with your best friends is a euphoric feeling. Jessie Ware has managed to render that fantasy in stunning detail.
It’s also something that is evoked within the music videos that have accompanied this album. Almost all of them take the form of dancers in cool locations serving incredible looks, and by god don’t you wish you could be like them. That’s where ‘What’s Your Pleasure’ grabs you by the hand, because it offers that kind of fantasy whenever you play it.
Check out Jessie Ware and loads of other great new tunes on the Sourhouse MUSICBOX playlist.