R.O.S.E. (released May 25, 2018)
Jessie J, you smart.
When word leaked that the UK pop singer would not only be releasing an R&B project, but that project would be split into four EPs released over four days, a lot of these Twitter experts out here were left confused.
Y’all gotta catch up. It makes perfect sense.
Jessie J may be best known for her pop hits but she’s always dabbled in soul – and her incredible vocals are a perfect fit to convey that type of passion.
And reducing R.O.S.E., her fourth LP, into four separate, bite-sized EPs is a brilliant marketing move. In an era where it’s nearly impossible for fickle fans to listen to an entire album in one sitting, asking them to check out four tracks instead of 16 is a safer bet – especially if those four separate listening sessions go toward streams of the main project.
That’s some Thanos-level plotting right there.
Of course, all the schemes in the world are meaningless if the music doesn’t measure up. Never fear, Jessie delivers, thanks in part to her work with producer DJ Camper, who crafted the soundscapes for the vast majority of the project.
The first installment, R. (Realisations), serves as Jessie’s awakening, for both her career and love life. She unleashes her frustrations on “Think About That,” lashing out against raggedy ex-management, depending on whom you ask: “All you disturb is my work and my patience… You wanna be famous, say it, you wanna be famous.”
The hazy “Dopamine” is as addictive as its namesake, with the midtempo slink of “Easy on Me” putting Jessie’s vocals in prime position to shine. Overall, Realisations, is a pretty tight package.
Of the four EPs, O. (Obsessions) reigns supreme. “Not My Ex” might be the best written song on the album, with Jessie coming clean to her new lover about her troubled past while admitting that her heart is still on the mend. It’s very well done. “Petty” is filled with sass and energy, feeling like a guaranteed crossover hit and “Four Letter Word” is a wonderfully touching tribute to her future child. The only slight misstep is “Real Deal,” an admittedly fun track that oddly feels like it’s stuck in the mid ’00s.
S. (Sex) might seem like the part of the album where things suddenly get salacious but that’s not really the case. In fact the “S” here would be better described as “self love.” “Queen” is a fine empowerment anthem with a poignant message: “Stop feeling like you’re not enough/Stop feeding into the haters.” Jessie demands to be more than a booty call on “One Night Stand” and embraces love on her own terms on “Dangerous.” She even gives us a little Cheryl Lynn on “Play,” but the “Got to be Real” sample is a little too overpowering. It’s fun, just not very adventurous.
The final EP, E. (Empowerment) is probably the weakest of the set in terms of content, but ironically, is probably the strongest in terms of vocal showcases. The powerful horns on “Glory” push the message of empowerment home, setting the stage for “Somebody’s Lady,” which smells like a vocal performance Grammy nomination to me. But as solid as tracks like “I Believe In Love” are, they just don’t compare to the more daring material earlier in the set.
R.O.S.E. is pretty solid individually, but link ’em together like Voltron and you’ll see that their strength is in their unity. As a complete package, it’s one of R&B’s strongest releases of 2018 so far.
Best tracks: “Dopamine,” “Not My Ex,” “Petty”
4 stars out of 5