First Listen Preview: Jessie Ware finds solace in a new dancefloor on the joyous Free Yourself
Jessie Ware knows a thing or two about the dancefloor.
Her last album - What's Your Pleasure? - was one of the great pop records of 2020, a stunning body of work that saw Jessie re-affirm herself and the music she made under the shade of opulent post-disco.
It pulled from the underground New York scene of the 1980s, hi-NRG and handbag house. It was a revelatory body of work, re-positioning Jessie as one our most prominent purveyors of the dancefloor, even if it was released during the height of lockdown, when you struggled to believe you would ever get to dance again.
We were lucky enough to get an exclusive First Listen of Free Yourself, and can reveal that it more than defies the already lofty expectations for Jessie's new material.
"Free yourself," Jessie demands, on a chorus that sounds like its backed by a choir of 100s. "Keep on climbing up that mountain top. Why don't you please yourself? If it feels so good, then don't you stop."
Produced by the indomitable Stuart Price (Kylie, Madonna, Dua Lipa) and co-written by Clarence Coffee Jr. (who was responsible for large swathes of Future Nostalgia's brightest moments), it's a shimmering ode to self-determination and emancipation. In a world where the cards are stacked against you, all you can do is believe in yourself, keep climbing, and dance.
This new material bursts out of What's Your Pleasure's shadow, as it should do. No longer confined to the darker recesses of the disco, this is a track clearly inspired by several motifs; CeCe Peniston, Erotica-era Madonna (Deeper and Deeper especially) and Studio 54 as the rent ran out and they were closing the shutters for the final time. It's Italo Disco at its finest, a shimmering house-indebted banger that would have sounded as good in 1992 as it does in 2022.
Price's production on the track is sublime, as Jodie Harsh told us last week, you could really hear this track playing during the glory days of 90s queer culture in venues like the Hacienda in Manchester, or soundtracking an episode of Russell T Davies' Queer As Folk.
But the best bit of all is Jessie's voice; melting like butter over the house piano riff, before blasting itself to the sky on the song's chorus, which might just be the biggest of her career so far.
More than just a love letter to the queer communities that have embraced Jessie as one of their own and more than just a smart, sonic evolution from her previous material, Free Yourself proves once and for all that What's Your Pleasure? was no fluke, and Jessie really has found, and continues to define, her lane. As anyone who saw her breathtaking live set in Barcelona's Primavera last month, this is an artist at the top of her game, making the best music of her career.
Many artists, we imagine, would have buckled or lost their nerve in this situation. But not our Jessie. Instead, she's come out fighting. And not just fighting, but dancing. Dancing all night long until the club closes and the sun is rising on a brand new day.
Free Yourself drops July 19 via PMR/EMI.