For a long time it has been a dream of mine to attend an intimate gig by someone with an amazing vocal talent. I go to gigs all the time and see good singers, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see a singer with the level of talent of someone like Leona or Beyoncé even at a large arena or outdoor performance, let alone in a small club. My dream was finally fulfilled this week, but it wasn’t by one of the established powerhouse popstars – it was a brand new superstar in the making, Jessie J.
She’s been away in America preparing her debut album (and sharing a little of her songwriting talent with Miley Cyrus on the way) but now she’s back in the UK and ready for blast off. So much hype has mounted up for Jessie over the past few months that her gig at Proud Camden on Thursday was attended by a who’s who of British urban music from Tinie Tempah to Chipmunk, Talay Riley and Oritsé from JLS. Even Rachel Adedeji was there!
Jessie’s set was made up of two types of songs – the ones that were great songs but not demonstrative of Jessie’s talent, and the ones that were a little boring but sung incredibly well. I’m not always a fan of warbly singers, but when it’s done well there’s nothing more impressive, and Jessie is a master at this type of singing. From having seen her previous live performances on YouTube, I had high expectations, but no video can convey quite what it’s like to hear these kinds of performances live. I wouldn’t advise her to release any of her more warbly songs as singles, but if she can find a song which shows off this talent without being too self-indulgent it could easily take her to global superstar level.
The other aspect of Jessie J is equally exciting, as she exudes down to earth cool. She joked around on stage and told us how she’s always just as much herself when she performs as at any other time – there’s no Sasha Fierce-type alter-ego here, just Jessie being Jessie. She made mistakes and started songs again, made up lyrics when she forgot them, and abandoned her plan to sing sitting down when she realised hardly anyone could see her. It might have seemed unprofessional from a less talented act, but from Jessie it was all part of her charm.
The final song of the night was her debut UK single, Do It Like A Dude, a song which I’ve already had my ups and downs with. At first when I heard it I was quite disappointed as it wasn’t at all what I’d expected from Jessie. It was very Americanised and didn’t reflect the Jessie I thought I knew. However, the more I listened the more I found myself loving it and had it stuck in my head constantly in the days leading up to the gig. When Jessie performed it she explained that Do It Like A Dude is her version of the kind of music that’s around at the moment. She’s taken on the sound of 2010 and given it a Jessie J twist. Whether or not this is a good idea for a first single (surely something more typically Jessie would better introduce her?) I think it stands a very good chance of being a hit, so in that sense she’s made a very wise move.
The more gigs I go to, and the more new artists I see, the more they all begin to blur into one, so to discover an artist who really stands out is more exciting than ever. It’s been a long wait for Jessie to break through (I first posted about her in February 2009) but she’s been bubbling under the surface of planet pop just long enough that she is no doubt about to explode and could well be the biggest British star of 2011. I got the feeling I was present at a very special moment and I don’t think anyone in that room will be forgetting about Jessie J any time soon. Now all we need is for the rest of the world to wake up to this incredible new British talent.