Jessie J Exclusive
In her only Irish interview, the bisexual pop queen opens up about her crazy life
In the room next door to me, Jessie J is recording inserts for an international TV promo in preparation for her new album Alive. “HI, BRAZIL! I'm Jessie J,” she roars, “AND YOU'RE WATCHING…” (insert generic domestic music show title here). “HI, GERMANY! It's Jessie J . . .” and so it goes on, interminably. One by one, there's a personal address to each market territory. While I'm listening, it seems as if she does her introduction about 300 times. Each time with the same cannonball velocity.
OK, so it's not exactly shovelling coal, but from where I'm sitting it sounds exhausting. All that smiling , projecting her voice across the world on command, never letting the sheer monotony of the task creep into her tone.
Eventually, after all the footage is shot, I'm allowed in to see her. Someone's been in to the hotel room before her and set the ambience to pop-star-in-residence mode. The light is low, atomisers cough out a steady flow of fragrant steam. Jessie has curled her long, lean form (the legs go on forever) into an armchair. Her cropped hair is canary blonde.
She's been talking for hours, but there's plenty of chat left in Jessie J yet. She was trained for this; was practically raised for it. She went to the performing-arts Brit School, incubator for pop talent, which churns out fully fledged divas on a yearly basis. And she's a trouper, always pulling out the smile like a pro, though she had to cancel her Phoenix Park gig in July due to throat problems.
“I've had stomach bugs and I've had flu and I've been on tour,” she says. “I had tonsillitis on tour. My throat was white and it was the night for the media. I was, like, ‘How am I gonna do this?’ I was in tears. And then, I was, like, ‘Suck it up. Could be worse.’ And I've taught myself that at 60 per cent I'm still pretty alright. Everyone was, like, ‘How did you do that?’ and I was, like, ‘What do you want me to do; run on stage and cough? And go to sleep? Because that's what I want to do. But I don't have a choice.’”
In a sea of indistinguishable urban-pop artists in hot pants, Jessie J stands out. For proof, the uninitiated should check out Do It Like a Dude, her gender-bending hit single, in which she smartly parodies hip-hop style machismo, grabbing her crotch and squaring her shoulders, while a chorus of rude girls in low-slung pants and baseball caps fight like daf t cockerels in the background.
It's like nothing you've seen before, brilliantly subversive and original, like Madonna in her sophomore period. Not to mention being almost impossible not to dance to. Her new album, Alive, which she's here to talk about (“HI! I'M JESSIE J!”) marks a new mood. For one thing, unlike in Do It Like a Dude, there's no swearing.
“My mum was, like, ‘Can you take it out?’ and I went, ‘Cool’. There's no swearing on the album — that was really important to me; that my niece who's six can listen to it in the car with my sister, who's 32, and they can enjoy it together,” she says. “And they can bond through it. I feel like there's a lot of music that segregates families now.”
Her hair, which she shaved off live on the BBC’s Comic Relief in March, is starting to grow back and is styled in a cute little quiff. It's amazing how shearing off her trademark geometric bob changed her appearance, ridding her of her edges.
Without hair, she looks much gentler, more feminine. Her green eyes seem to twinkle right out of her face.
With every second album comes a story
‘No one sends me a script in the morning of what to say, so why would I let them do that with my music?’
of transformation, and Jessie J's is no exception. After all, she's a quarter of a century old now.
Twenty-five might seem young to the rest of us, but in pop-star years, its full adulthood; on the doorstep of middle age. “When you are younger, everything's very dramatic. Whereas when you're a little older and you've lived a little and you feel a little wiser, there's a reassurance of pain,” she explains. “Instead of, ‘I'm sad and I can't cope!’ It's more, ‘OK, what am I going to do about this?’ I think that's the difference. This album is a bit more contained, a bit more assured.”
From what I've heard of it, it seems to be a bigger album than the first in terms of scale, packed full of stadium-filling belters. Jessie is a natural-born performer and wanted to create songs designed, first and foremost, to be heard live. She's no pop-poppet mouthpiece. Her US career was launched when a song she penned, Party in the USA, was picked up by Miley Cyrus and became a huge hit there. And she still takes a DIY approach to her career.
“No one sends me a script in the morning of what to say, so why would I let them do that with my music?” she says. “I don't know what people would talk about in interviews if they didn't write their own music. I've done the TV stuff and I like clothes, but I'm a singer. When I was eight years old, I wasn't thinking, ‘What lip stain am I wearing?’ I was