With her second album, Alive, Jessie J delivers a strong straight-up pop record. It builds on her diverse approach to music by focusing on power-pop and retro pop-rock sounds. Following this old-school model, the album sounds like it could have played comfortably alongside Cyndi Lauper, Cher, Bonnie Tyler, and George Michael on radio a few decades ago.
Wisely, Jessie J doe not fixate on the EDM trend--a movement that has had an explosive growth and almost instant decline this year. Instead, her album focuses on joyous kiss-offs, like "It's My Party," (which is a direct sonic relative to her hit "Domino") and the guitar-dressed "Sexy Lady." While Katy Perry and Cher revive 90s dance and rock music for the
mainstream, Jessie J is digging her stilettos into the 80s, and the
results are a pure pleasure. For example, on the wonderful
"Daydreamin,'" she does a great Whitney dance-pop tribute and "Thunder" sounds like Peter Gabriel's arena art-rock. The singer also works a good power-ballad, like "Breathe," and the slow songs find her delivering some of her most controlled and precise vocals. Of course, there are modern flourishes, like guest raps on "Excuse My Rude" and "Wild," which add dashes of 2013 swagger and groove. Yet, these cameos just supply some varying texture to a throwback album. In every way, the vintage sound suits her, and this classic sensibility makes the record one of the most comforting and life-affirming this fall.
There are rumors that Jessie J is being made to rework some of the album
before it gets a state-side release (as it is now only available to North American audiences as a UK import). I hope her label wises up and
recognizes the masterful work on display here and how much US radio
could benefit from this album. Though some pop stars have devolved into tastelessness, Jessie J wants her listener to have a good time, and her efforts pay off.