Ear­worm ev­ery­woman’s pre­dictable pop

The Guardian - G2 - - Reviews Music - Alexis lexis Petridis tridis

There are artists who as­cend to star­dom in the tra­di­tional blaze of pub­lic­ity and hype, and there are oth­ers who, to bor­row the old Peter Cook joke, seem to rise with­out trace. Con­sider the case of Jess Glynne, who has spent the last four years be­com­ing one of this coun­try’s big­gest stars. She has had seven No 1 sin­gles, more than any other Bri­tish fe­male artist. Her sec­ond al­bum, Al­ways in Be­tween, finds it­self launched into a chart that her de­but has yet to va­cate after 163 weeks. Her mu­sic has at­tained a ubiq­uity you might have thought im­pos­si­ble in a world atom­ised by per­son­alised playlists and catch-up TV. Try as you might, you never seem to be that far from the sound of Rather Be, her 2014 col­lab­o­ra­tion with Clean Ban­dit, ad­ver­tis­ing M&S ready meals, or in­deed the sound of her im­plor­ing you not to be so hard on your­self blar­ing from a shop PA. Ear­lier this year, pas­sen­gers threat­ened to boy­cott the bud­get air­line Jet2 for play­ing her 2015 hit Hold My Hand in­ces­santly as the back­ground mu­sic on its planes: “I’ll walk to Por­tu­gal next time,” swore one ag­grieved punter.

The ques­tion of how Glynne has so gripped the mass imag­i­na­tion is in­trigu­ing. It’s cer­tainly not as a re­sult of her scin­til­lat­ing per­son­al­ity and un­earthly charisma. A re­cent Q&A with Glynne in a mu­sic mag­a­zine re­vealed so lit­tle of in­ter­est that the writer had to go with “I like baked beans” as a grip­ping open­ing quote. In fact, Glynne may rep­re­sent the apoth­e­o­sis of the bizarre noughties com­pul­sion for pop stars not to em­body a world more glam­orous, ex­cit­ing, strange and sug­ges­tive than your own – a world of end­less pos­si­bil­ity, rein­ven­tion and trans­for­ma­tion – but to be as or­di­nary as is hu­manly pos­si­ble. By com­par­i­son, Ed Sheeran is Ziggy Star­dust, Johnny Rot­ten and the mem­ber of Fela Kuti’s en­tourage who used to demon­strate African witch­craft on stage by ap­pear­ing to cut off his own tongue then reat­tach it, all rolled into one pack­age of hith­erto-unimag­in­able thrills.

In­deed, if the ap­peal of Ed Sheeran to teenage fans is that he seems like a mate’s older brother, just re­turned from a gap year back­pack­ing with tales of how sick Goa is, Glynne’s ap­pears to in­volve re­sem­bling the same mate’s older sis­ter, who’s re­cently got a job with an es­tate agent and moved out of home into a house­share in Hen­don.

Clearly her suc­cess is founded in her mu­sic, which brings us to Al­ways in Be­tween, an al­bum un­der­stand­ably not minded to mess much with a proven for­mula. Some­thing about the melody of I’ll Be There in­ef­fa­bly re­calls the melody of Don’t Be So Hard On Your­self. And no one’s ever go­ing to com­plain about the lack of songs with the oohwah ooh-ooh-oohing that pro­pelled Hold My Hand to the top. You’re waist-deep in ay-yey-yey-yeahs and ooh-woo-woos through­out. For all the con­tem­po­rary sonic gim­micks fa­mil­iar from the Top 40 – from trop­i­cal house synths to vaguely gospel-ish massed back­ing vo­cals, to an acous­tic gui­tar-driven track you can tell has been made in the im­age of the afore­men­tioned Sheeran, not least be­cause it’s been co-writ­ten by Sheeran – some­thing quite old­fash­ioned lurks at its cen­tre.

At one ex­treme, it is in­flu­enced by clas­sic soul, heavy on the blar­ing brass – not so much Amy Wine­house as her less emo­tion­ally wrench­ing con­tem­po­rary Joss Stone – and, at the other, un­de­mand­ing dan­ce­pop topped by an im­me­di­ately recog­nis­able voice, the same idea that gar­nered M-Peo­ple vast suc­cess 20 years ago. Its best mo­ments are what a Hen­don es­tate agent would call “fin­ished to a high stan­dard”. The clos­ing bal­lad Nev­er­mind works up a gen­uinely pow­er­ful head of steam and the melody of 123 doesn’t need to be played in­ces­santly at you on a plane to take up res­i­dence in your brain.

At its least dis­tinc­tive, it whizzes in one ear and out of the other at such speed that you won­der if it might not prove those con­spir­acy the­o­ries about the dele­te­ri­ous ef­fect of stream­ing ser­vices on pop mu­sic: that peo­ple are now de­lib­er­ately writ­ing the most un­ob­tru­sive songs pos­si­ble so that lis­ten­ers with a Spo­tify playlist bur­bling in the back­ground aren’t star­tled into hit­ting fast for­ward. You reg­is­ter that it’s Glynne singing – to her credit, she’s worked out that you don’t need to go bananas with melisma to make your voice stand out – and that’s about it.

The words either opt for the old disco trick of play­ing mu­si­cal eu­pho­ria off against lyri­cal heart­break, or trade on her ev­ery­woman per­sona. She’s moved ed to tell some­one how she feels about ut them “be­cause I’ve had a few”. Ro­man­tic de­spair leads to the don­ning of sweat­pants and a night t in with a tin of pre-mixed gin and tonic. You can see why peo­ple re­late ate to it and you can tell it is go­ing to be huge: this al­bum is what pop is in 2018, but the feel­ing that pop can be some­thing rather more than this is s hard to shake.

An acous­tic gui­tardriven track is in the im­age of Ed Sheeran. Not least be­cause he co-wrote it

Don’t mess with the for­mula … Jess Glynne

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.