Jessie J Ex­clu­sive

In her only Ir­ish in­ter­view, the bi­sex­ual pop queen opens up about her crazy life

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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