Jessie J Live Review: "Pop Music As It's Supposed To Be"

She's slowly making her name as the UK Queen of Pop, but would she deliver live on the promise of her early singles?
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She's slowly making her name as the UK Queen of Pop, but would she deliver live on the promise of her early singles?

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Coming out of the station on Saturday evening, escaping the carriages packed with swathes of Olympic stragglers and Eastern Electrics refugees, a look down Chalk Farm Road, deep in the heart of Camden, revealed a half-mile long queue jutting out from the historic Roundhouse.

Quite how many acts, with but one album in their discographies, could attract such a feverous (and varied) crowd, is uncertain. How many British acts? Hardly any that you  could think of, barring Jessie J.

Jessie J, born Jessica Cornish, had already been a successful songwriter for some time (penning the odious Miley Cyrus behemoth “Party in the USA” perhaps a lucrative misstep) before she struck out on her own with the stunning, sexually-ambiguous “Do It Like A Dude”. Pop-melodrama in the mould of Lady Gaga, it was abrasive, combative and catchy-as-fuck. Legend has it that the song was originally intended for a certain songstress whose remit often lies slap bang within the abrasive-pop, Rihanna; but the label thought the song so brilliant that they insisted J release it herself (the legitimacy of such a rumour – that a major record label would hand over what they determined to be a stone-cold hit to the writer instead of one of the biggest selling artists in the world – is one that I am hesitant to accept).
Is this what pop music is? Homogeneity dressed up in fashion and shoved into your face until you're bludgeoned into accepting it?

Something happened, however, in the proceeding months. Gone was the jagged juxtaposition of a cute Essex girl with a punky haircut smacking you in the face with football-pitch-sized lungs and a “Fuck you” 'tude. Inevitably, in came the cookie-cutter pop of proceeding singles, such as “Laserlight” (“featuring” the ever lamentable presence of wanky super-producer David Guetta) and the saccharine Katy Perry-dom of “Price Tag”. Include “Domino” in this list and they're all mega-singles, shifting shedloads of copies of singles in a time where singles don't generally shift shedloads of copies, but without what made J special in the first place. The pipes remained, but the edges had been sanded off (the fact that the best song I've heard from her, “Mamma Knows Best” - three minutes of Ronson-tinged bombast; a soul-pop record she'll be hard pushed to top – was not released as a single is a fucking travesty).

Is this what pop music is? Homogeneity dressed up in fashion and shoved into your face until you're bludgeoned into accepting it? Sure, it'd always been this way, but why should it? I wondered as I drained my pint.

Strolling into the beautifully revamped venue, the Roundhouse was buzzing. Twitter had been ablaze with tweens tweeting just how pant-wettingly excited they were to get into the place, not many minding the two hour wait.

The Special Ks, the opening act of the night, breezed onto the stage with their thoughtfully-composed “Oh I just threw this on” outfits and terrible haircuts, full of the kind of confidence usually reserved for young-upstarts and megastars. Their Friendly Fires-style electro-indie was fun if fleeting, but the crowd were into it, dancing like crazy as if it was THEY who they came to see (maybe that's true for some of them). Quite the opposite could be said for the proceeding Mr Hudson's horrific DJ set, a cringe-worthy blur of tech problems, a crowd not dancing to the obvious “club banger” set he had composed amidst a cacophony of bad beat-matching.

When Jessie burst onstage with the knock out one-two of “Do It Like A Dude” and “Who's Laughing Now?”, I was excited (even half-ignoring the horrific verses of the latter, pseudo-Nikki Minaj back-in-the-day tripe deemed acceptable after Cher Lloyd lowered the bar so low with her dribbly, white-girl rapping on the X Factor). Opening with your best song after only one album's worth of material was a risk, but one that paid off. The rest of the night rode through on it's bluster, even during the mid-set lull, featuring a down-tempo cover of Usher's “Climax” exhibited J's lung-capacity, as it reached deep-sea-diver heights (or lows, I'm unsure of which in this analogy).

Opening with your best song after only one album's worth of material was a risk, but one that paid off

The crowd were into it as J forwent the Vitamin Water kick-arseing (they sponsored the night – their cherry water with Southern Comfort cocktails were pretty cool) and Olympic-saluting sappiness, leaving only a brief, cursory word for each, focusing on her tight set. Clocking in at a swift fifty minutes (give or take), J bounced around with energy, looking stunning in a shimmering gold, bum-length dress. She's pretty into pleasing her fans too, giving one lucky Alex a signed jacket deemed surplus to her requirements and randomly dedicating the gig to another.

Originally, I was reticent as to whether I'd enjoy the gig, but despite myself, I did. She is charming and likably brash with talent to spare, but I knew that already. My umbrage was with the mulch she's been slinging since her debut single, but even those I aforementioned I lapped up like crazy. Perhaps it was the beautiful girl in-front of me, intoxicating with her incongruous skanking and gun-fingering to a Jessie cover of “Never Too Much”, but I enjoyed it. This was pop music as it's supposed to be.

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