With the comparisons to Sade on her appearances with artists like SBTRKT, and a distinct lack of solo work, Jessie Ware could of easily had slipped under the radar at the beginning of the year, dismissed as another backing singer with spotlight aspirations. It was when the Julio Bashmore produced “Running” dropped in February that people rightly started to take note, a smooth mix of R&B and electronica with lustrous guitar, enabling Ware to display both the nonaggressive and powerhouse shades of her vocal ability, throwing the hype machine into a frenzy (helped along by a remix by Disclosure becoming the underground anthem of the year).
It is Ware’s fusion of restraint and vocal assertion that makes Devotion such a remarkable record. She clearly has an incredible voice, but flaunts its full power modestly, her sultry ease dominating tracks like “Swan Song” or title track “Devotion” which emphasizes the rich emotional outpour on previous singles “Wildest Moments” and “Night Light”.
The touching undertones add a tender, authentic nuance as she articulates the tragedies of love with potency, perhaps most evident in the impassioned “Taking In Water”: “Holding on forever to keep you, to keep you from slipping too deep”. The instrumentation harks back to her electronic roots, yet incorporates a full band ambience, forming an authoritative sound that doesn’t outclass the signature vocals. Overall, Devotion changes the rules for how a pop record should sound, and Ware has crafted an empowered album that transcends others in its field. The most promising female vocalist of the year? Quite possibly.