Don’t try to kill me with your love: The best of Jessie Ware

Please forgive us for assuming Jessie Ware would tread the path of many Sade-influenced artists: a devolution from sophistication to enervation. This wasn’t clear on Devotion (2012), a luxuriant debut in which Ware sighed and cooed over the spiky guitars and electronic swells arranged by Dave Okumu and Kid Harpoon. The timing of its release coincided with the maturing of a generational slice that had grown up regarding Sade, Usher, Babyface, and others as worthy of study. Its modish production felt like an antidote to the public’s Adele craze. Flitting between subject and object, posing as a woman ready to lose it all while maintaining impeccable cool, Ware was a fresh and much-needed novelty.

Alas, Devotion‘s follow-ups gave the impression that exquisite suffering might be her metier. Collaborations with Miguel on Tough Love (2014) offset the collaboration with Ed Sheeran. Glasshouse was even more of an etiolated thing.

Hints of a possible direction showed themselves on a Devotion bonus track called “Imagine It Was Us.” But nothing prepared me for What’s Your Pleasure. “Mutant disco, nu-disco, Simian Mobile Disco, disco-disco — the album earns its title,” I wrote last year, and coming after three months of COVID fears and an unknown future What’s Your Pleasure shimmed in from the past to offer a recombinant present. My favorite album of 2020. It could’ve topped my chart this year.

My dozen picks:

1. What’s Your Pleasure
2. Wildest Moment
3. The Kill
4. Imagine It Was Us
5. Sweetest Song
6. Running
7. Taking In Water
8. Your Domino
9. Champagne Kisses
10. Aaliyah (with Katy B)
11. Night Light
12. Remember Where You Are

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