“More like a brutal telling-off for allowing someone to disrespect your individuality than a method of emotional detox and reassurance”
Digital Release: November 13, 2011
Physical Release: November 14, 2011
Self-professed healer of everyone’s pain, Jessie J, fancies herself a bit of the “Yay! You’re you!” pie that pretty much every female popstar going took a hearty slice of (with the exception of Pixie Lott, because she was too busy trying to learn to be sexy) during 2010. Last year we enjoyed the confidence-building celebrations of self valuation anthems like ‘Fuckin’ Perfect’, ‘Born This Way’, and ‘Firework’ and now not only is Jessie J arriving a year late and a little too eager to pick up the last stale piece, she’s only gone and done it in true Jessie J style. That style being to give all listeners the impression she is a water bomb, constantly wailing louder and louder and growing bigger and bigger, putting them at unnatural amounts of unease due to the fact she sounds like she could burst at any given moment.
Some might praise this “true Jessie J style”. Others, like myself, see little to be fascinated by in it’s heartless package. Whether it’s a badly calculated façade or a genuinely superficial view of what it means to be unique, ‘Who You Are’ is bellowed, screeched, slurred; even something that sounds like gargling can be heard from Jessie’s mighty lungs at points. The song’s message is almost completely drowned out by the self-indulgent delivery. Once again, it’s the more modestly quiet and universal moments of Jessie J’s endeavours that glimmer with the alien concept of actual emotion (see: the first three lines of the song), but there’s no leashing her once she breaks into the chorus, all too often submitting any empathy to her cathartic bellow, only ever dissipated on sluggish, clichéd lyrics about stars and dreams. It would be a shame that ‘Who You Are’s only redeeming line – “It’s okay not to be okay” ends up sandwiched between hideous vocal ostentation, were it not for the fact that the charming simplicity of the line is blown out of proportion once again by her voice.
It’s often obvious that even Jessie and her production team know her voice needs no backing, which could explain the spluttering drum loop and the trite Slash-esque guitar grumbling somewhere in the background of the big emotional climaxes. There really is nothing to take away from listening to ‘Who You Are’. What should be a sensitive ballad is a bloodless heart destroyed by a banshee incapable of singing one note to a syllable. Her intentions are clear, admirable even, but in the wake of ‘Who You Are’ sounding more like a brutal telling-off for allowing someone to disrespect your individuality than a method of emotional detox and reassurance, Jessie J falls at almost every possible hurdle with spectacular gracelessness.