Last month, I wrote in detail about Double Dutchess, the new project from Fergie. In that review, I discussed how I felt she’d created an emo breakup album, one replete with themes of loss, love, the power of sexual agency, and how much breaking up can suck – even when it’s the absolute right thing to do. And while I criticized some of the stylistic choices, Fergie made a wholly personal record that overflowed with relatable lyrics and sentiments.
So, when I poured over Glasshouse, the third album from Jessie Ware, I immediately realized that it was the inverse of what Fergie released.
Both of them stress concepts of intense romantic love and every possible aspect of that situation from the perspective of mature grownups. But whereas Fergie’s power emerges from actively pursuing new and consensual experiences after her marriage fell apart, Jessie candidly sings about growing deeper in love with her partner, while not skimping on detailing how hard that process can really be at times.
It’s definitely a yin-and-yang situation. And I really enjoy writing about both these albums in the span of the same month, as the music world needs more vulnerable tunes from strong, capable, and talented women.
So – let’s talk about Jessie Ware.
Everything begins and ends with her voice, which is this rich and rangy mezzo-soprano. While her falsetto is bright and crystal clear, she also possesses this robust alto depth that provides gravity and resonance. It’s this delicious mix of Janet Jackson, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, and Mariah Carey – a diva with the power to belt out huge notes, but who prefers the crooner’s oeuvre.
And it’s glorious.
The music on Glasshouse is a stellar blend of ‘50s vocal jazz, ‘80s pop, ‘90s R&B, and contemporary electro. Imagine The xx making music with Sampha, Paula Abdul, and Billie Holiday – complete with piano-centered instrumentation, crisp drums, and a clean production aesthetic that exudes ample warmth. Everything just feels so sumptuous, but without dipping into excess or overkill.
Lyrically, Ware presents the most intimate and personal batch of songs in her career, as she addresses the birth of her first child and how having that child changed her marriage.
On “Thinking About You,” she intones:
“Even baby when I’m falling for two
Sometimes it’s hard to see you’re not watching me
When I want you to
And don’t you know I’m dying
Just to spend a little more time with you”
As any couple who’s had a kid can attest, having that new person in your home creates challenges for how you relate to your partner. So, I greatly appreciate how upfront Ware is with her feelings.
In the chorus of “Alone,” she declares:
“Say that you’re the one who’s taking me home
‘Cause I want you on my skin and my bones
Knocking me off my feet
Just say I’m the one that you need (oh, please)
Say that you’re the one who’s taking me home
So I can get you alone”
I don’t know about you, but that is a timeless declaration of love that should be able to break open even the most jaded heart.
With the second half of the chorus of “First Time,” she opines:
“Don’t hold me like you already know me
I’m not leaving ’til I get you to show me
We could fall in love just like
Just like the first time, the first time”
A word of advice to all you young whippersnappers reading this review – Ware is dishing out top-shelf relationship advice here. Find yourself someone who will NEVER hold you like they already know you.
And with “Hearts,” she belts out:
“Hearts aren’t supposed to hurt like that
They’re not supposed to break so fast
They say that time’s a healer
How long’s this burn supposed to last?”
In the hands of a lesser mortal, this tune would be a scorching barnburner that destroys any and all possible bridges that could lead toward reconciliation. Ware instead employs care, subtlety, and discretion with her line of questioning, as she seeks an open dialogue, not a closed-off diss track.
Glasshouse is a classy and clear-eyed ode to building and strengthening her committed relationship through a series of frank, yet caring and loving songs. Ware is both passionate and sultry, but most of all, she’s direct. Where as Fergie sang about frivolity and freedom, Ware seeks depth, not dalliances.