“I’mma do it like it ain’t been done!” Get it Jess! In proclamatory fashion, Jessie J confidently utters those swag-laden words from the jump of her latest album, Sweet Talker. Ultimately, Sweet Talker plays like too many pop albums today – big and scattered. Like her contemporaries, there’s both 24-karat gold and then there’s pyrite, which may appeal briefly but fades, or misses completely. Overall, there’s an overabundance of pyrite or better-stated, forgettable, blasé songs.
“Ain’t Been Done”, where the aforementioned lyric is lifted, seems to play on both J’s confidence as a pop musician as well as her bedroom endeavors. It’s not drenched in double entendre per se, but the brief opener is tastefully naughty. Follow up “Burnin’ Up” is more ‘fiery’ – no pun intended. Initially off-putting, the dance-infused cut seems an unlikely fit for J, but as always, she kills it vocally. The ubiquitous force known as 2 Chainz bestows his ‘prodigious’ MC gifts, including “Walk in the club and her ass start clappin’ / tell shawty I want an encore.” Oh boy…at least it’s fun!
“Sweet Talker” sports the benchmarks of a complete pop vocal performance, even if the song itself is somewhat average. It never reaches the brilliant highs of energetic banger “Bang Bang”, easily the album’s best song by a mile. Collaborating with pop music’s it-girls Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, the electrifying trio – with the help of Max Martin – drop one of the year’s most memorable gems. Sure it’s sexed-up and lacking depth, but “Bang Bang” is also irresistible; it’s like chocolate.
Following up her juggernaut – or better yet her “masterpiece” – Jessie J struggles to keep the spark ignited. “Fire” never wins the battle despite its dramatic production or J’s exceptional pipes. Not bad, the track also lacks greatness or definitiveness. “Personal” likewise lacks compelling oomph, coming off too indulgent without feeling nearly as ‘personal’ as Jessie J suggests. Then her “Masterpiece” does indeed fall short, ironically as she sings, “I’m still working on my masterpiece.” Indeed, indeed.
Finally “Seal Me With A Kiss” featuring De La Soul, gives Jessie J that much-needed injection of both fun and life, not to mention an indisputable catchy hook. Following “Bang Bang”, a clear drop threatened to derail the album. While “Said Too Much” keeps the tempo quick and keeps the vocals powerful, it doesn’t quite maintain the newfound momentum of “Seal Me With A Kiss”.
On “Loud” Jessie J continues to flaunt her mad pipes, assisted by violinist Lindsey Stirling. The problem, however, is the song itself is a bit of a bore despite Jessie’s best intentions. Penultimate joint “Keep Us Together” is more enjoyable, but not on the same level of previous smash “Seal Me With A Kiss”. “Get Away” closes the album (in standard form) with a ballad, something that Jessie J overdoes on Sweet Talker.
Ultimately, Sweet Talker falls short of pop glory. For as big of a hit as “Bang Bang” has been stateside, much of the rest of Sweet Talker fails to ‘get it together’ or rival that sentiment. The fact that there is even a deluxe edition, adding more so-so songs, is near insulting given the standard version’s malaise at times. Sweet Talker lacks enough punch to truly be that breakthrough album Jessie J and company – the record company that is – had hoped for.