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Album Review: Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!

3 min read
"That! Feels Good! is a remarkably confident work of pop extravagance" - our review of the brand new record from Jessie Ware

With the release of What’s Your Pleasure? in 2020, Jessie Ware cemented herself as one of the leaders of a wave of disco nostalgia that’s been prevalent in pop music in the years since. A departure from the smooth and soulful balladry of her previous releases, the album was a classy, synth-laden take on the disco genre which provided relief from feelings of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ware’s latest album, That! Feels Good!, feels in many ways like its high budget sequel, sharing similarly glossy production but this time more explosive and more theatrical – it’s the product of an artist whose confidence is through the roof. Ware is largely working with the same collaborators here, but the key difference is the introduction of Stuart Price, the mastermind behind Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor and more recently a collaborator on Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia. 

The record opens with a chorus of overlapping voices (compiled of Ware’s friends and family) softly repeating the album title – amongst these voices are singers Kylie Minogue and Róisín Murphy, actress Gemma Arterton, and her mother, Lennie Ware. Soon after a funky bass line drops, which Ware glides over with a lustful hook as she urges “that feels good, do it again, do it again.” The idea of pleasure is the thread that holds the album together, both in its lyrical themes and the sheer euphoria of its instrumentals. In Free Yourself, the lead single and the album’s feel-good centrepiece, strings and horns are layered over keyboard stabs reminiscent of CeCe Peniston to create a floor-filling disco-house epic. The song equates pleasure with freedom, urging the listener to stay strong through life’s struggles and “keep on moving up that mountaintop.” Following this is the carefree single Pearls, in which she presents herself in the four-dimensional image of “a lady, a lover, a freak, and a mother.” The chorus demonstrates her powerful upper vocal range, with Ware belting “let me go! Let me dance!” as she yearns for a little danger in her life. The third single, Begin Again, is the highlight of the album. Featuring warm, funk-inspired horns contributed by jazz 8-piece Kokoroko, the Brazilian-influenced track evokes an image of sunny beaches and holiday romance.

At times, Ware opts to slow the pace down with more mellow soul and R&B tracks. Hello Love is a romantic song in the vein of Donny Hathaway and The Gap Band, with lovey-dovey lyrics about “pastel summer skies” and “electric butterflies”. After the hard-hitting energy of the first three tracks, the song offers a much needed breather. The penultimate song, Lightning, is a lushly textured, Sade-esque slow jam that is like the afterparty at the end of the record. It’s a good song on its own, but feels out of place within the album and an unnecessary change of pace considering Ware hits the accelerator again on the closing song, These Lips. 

From an artist who once claimed to have imposter syndrome, That! Feels Good! is a remarkably confident work of pop extravagance. Jessie Ware has clearly found her groove working within the modern disco style. In a genre that’s saturated and often lacking originality, Ware’s music is both forward-looking while also showing reverence to icons of the past by wearing its influences on its sleeve. Putting aside minor sequencing gripes, this will be looked back on along with What’s Your Pleasure? as a duology of sorts representing the best the genre has to offer.