Joss Stone: Introducing Joss Stone

While there are a couple of moments of over-singing and affectation, Introducing Joss Stone is a dramatic leap forward creatively, without straying too far from the sound that made Stone famous.

Joss Stone

Introducing Joss Stone

Label: Virgin
US Release Date: 2007-03-20
UK Release Date: 2007-03-12

Based on her first two albums, there was a lot that rubbed me the wrong way about Joss Stone. First, she was hailed as this great British soul singer, like people had never heard of Dusty Springfield, Alison Moyet, and Annie Lennox before. Second, as a teenager singing love songs, she didn’t really have much in the way of believability. Granted, her voice is something special, but on her earlier works, she sounded like a kid trying to play grown up -- a problem that still plagues artists even older than Stone (hello, Beyonce). Finally, Stone sounded like someone who learned how to sing “soulfully” from a training guide. Baby, just because you say “sing-ANG” instead of “singing”, it does not make you a true soul singer.

Those two albums in question -- 2003’s The Soul Sessions and 2004’s Mind, Body & Soul -- were mediocre, but showed promise. Stone’s third effort, Introducing Joss Stone, is yet another big step towards establishing Stone as a fantastic soul singer. It’s certainly the first great R&B album I’ve heard this year. While there’s still the occasional affectation that I wish she would get rid of, Stone has grown into her music quite a bit. Of course, it helps that, as Stone's the album’s primary songwriter, most of the words that pass through her lips are hers.

It also helps that she brought along Raphael Saadiq as her co-pilot for this voyage. Saadiq, over the past two decades, has built up quite a resume, not only as 1/3 of Tony Toni Tone and later Lucy Pearl, but also as one of R&B music’s most adventurous and organic producers -- working with everyone from Bad Boy girl group Total to neo-soul savant D’Angelo. Saadiq's sound is perfect for Stone, and the end result for the album is a winning sound that contains actual musicianship with a classic sound AND a contemporary feel. Live strings, bass, and some stunning funk guitar work coexist peacefully with turntable scratches, guest emcees, and Stone’s powerful voice.

The album’s main topic is love: good love, bad love, romantic love, and love for things like music -- which is, incidentally, the name of the album’s best track. A testament to the healing power of song, the track’s simmering groove and sumptuous vocal arrangement are topped by a dizzying, tongue-twisting 16 bars from the long M.I.A. Lauryn Hill. It’s a small hope, but one wonders if this guest appearance will finally be what it takes to bring L-Boogie out of retirement.

Introducing Joss Stone is a primarily up-tempo effort. The album has a summery feel, which will definitely perk ears up as we patiently wait for spring to arrive. The retro-'70s flair of “Baby Baby Baby” and the Aretha-quoting “Headturner” are jams meant to be grooved to with a smile on your face. You could imagine someone blasting them from a boom box on their stoop -- if people actually did that sort of thing anymore. Other highlights include the funky shuffle of “Girl, They Won’t Believe It”, the semi-acoustic “What Are We Gonna Do Now” (featuring a wonderfully efficient guest verse from Common), and “Arms Of My Baby”, a piece about being alone on the road and missing your significant other. This song veers from a Latin flavor to a Philly soul vibe in seconds flat. It’s both fun and somewhat daring.

While the ballads on this album are serviceable, they’re definitely not as good as the rest of the album. The only one of note is “What Were We Thinking”. It starts off as a spare, ‘60s influenced track that sounds eerily like a far superior Saadiq production: "I Found My Everything" by Mary J. Blige. However, just when you’re about to cut the CD off, the song explodes into waves of loud guitar, giving the track a rock-ish crunch.

While there are a couple of moments of over-singing and vocal affectation, Introducing Joss Stone is a dramatic leap forward creatively, without straying too far from the sound that made Stone famous. At the very least, kudos should go to Stone and her camp for staying true to a fairly organic soul sound and not turning her into a run-of-the-mill pop/soul diva (although I can very easily see that happening if this album is not a success). Although Stone’s only 19, Introducing is a soulful effort that shows that Stone has the goods to be a major player in the world of “real” R&B as she ages.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.