Jessie J - Scala, London
Unless you’ve had your arm stuck under a boulder in a canyon for the past month, you would know that the name on the lips of the music industry is Jessie J. The 22-year-old from Essex has transformed from YouTube sensation to UK megastar if not overnight, then certainly very rapidly, as a result of her consecutive wins of the BRITs Critics’ Choice Award and BBC Sound Of 2011 poll.
An obvious concern when one artist garners so much exposure is that by the time their debut album comes out, everyone will be too fatigued with all the coverage to even care. However, apathy is not something that Jessie J inspires and on the basis of tonight’s set, she isn’t likely to go away any time soon so you better be prepared to hear her name for a long time to come.
The fact is Jessie J didn’t even need the aforementioned wins to sell out this particular Scala date. Originally scheduled for December, but postponed due to illness, this show sold out almost instantly thanks to ‘Do It Like A Dude’ exploding over the Internet (10.3 million YouTube views and counting) and it’s clear from the crowd that these aren’t your fair-weather, bandwagon fans. Practically every song tonight is welcomed like an even older friend than ‘Do It Like A Dude’, even the never-before-played live ‘LOVE’ originally penned for Alicia Keys, and Jessie feeds off this energy and enthusiasm to nail every single track. In particular, ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ sounds huge already and has hit written over every note thanks to its blistering, impassioned, rock-infused chorus.
But she doesn’t even need the gusto to impress. Predictably ‘Do It Like A Dude’ is smashed out of the park in the encore but it’s nowhere even close to the night’s highlight. That turns out to be a tie between two astonishing, flawless acoustic efforts in the form of ‘Big White Room’ and ‘Who You Are’, the former of which was recorded on the night for her album. Justin Timberlake proclaimed her to be the best singer in the world right now and you’d be hard pushed to disagree with him as she does have a truly special voice, able to combine to Marina-esque vocal ticks with the massive, soulful Aretha Franklin belters. The latter may sound bold but probably the whole of King’s Cross heard her last night going for it in ‘Who You Are’ and it’s not about the volume, it’s the sheer control over her voice that she has that astounds, with the big notes as crystal clear as the subtler moments.
As musicians go, Jessie J is the equivalent of a triple threat as well. She can definitely sing; she can unquestionably write, having written the US smash hit ‘Party In The USA’ for Miley Cyrus among others; and she easily has the showmanship chops to succeed in a live arena. That the set lasted around an hour with just nine songs is as clear an indicator as any that she spent her time involving the crowd; sometimes just chatting affably away and at other times bringing the crowd into the songs, such as on ‘Price Tag’ (also featuring a guest appearance from Devlin) with the crowd chanting the ‘la, la, la’ refrain back at her.
Anything but conventional, she doesn’t even disappear off stage once the big finale of ‘Do It Like A Dude’ is over, instead staying on for a good few minutes extra to say her thanks to her “heartbeats” – the name given to her fans on Twitter as without them, Jessie J couldn’t keep going – and her new band. It’s a completely refreshing approach fitting of the intimate surroundings, although one side of her live act that she’ll probably have to tone down in a couple of albums’ time for fear of putting in a four-hour stint.
More often than not, mega-hyped artists find a way of never quite being as fulfilling as they should be but with Jessie J, that fear isn’t likely to ring true any time soon. Even if you didn’t like the filthy r’n’b vibes of ‘Do It Like A Dude’, tonight's set showed she has enough variety to make damn sure you’ll find another track you’ll fall in love with and also to make her debut potentially one of the strongest albums of the year. It won’t be until March that we can find out whether the latter will be proven, but even if it’s half as accomplished, entertaining and outstanding as her live sets, it’s pretty much a nailed-on certainty.
MAMA KNOWS BEST
BIG WHITE ROOM
WHO'S LAUGHING NOW
PRICE TAG (feat. Devlin)
WHO YOU ARE
DO IT LIKE A DUDE