Jessie J

Sweet Talker

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Though Jessie J's 2013 album Alive had several singles enter the U.K. Top 40, it did little in the U.S. J followed the rather bland, ballad-heavy set with Sweet Talker, a collection of songs tailored to regain her footing as a pop star in the States. At the very least, the album is a lot more energetic than the misleadingly named Alive: filled with cameos by American artists as well as collaborations with A-list producers, Sweet Talker is the flashy opposite of what came before it. Sometimes the too-much-is-never-enough approach actually works: "Bang Bang," the Max Martin-produced hit single that presented J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj as a saucy girl group for the 2010s, goes so over the top with pop fizz that it demands listeners' attention. While it's arguable that Minaj's mile-a-minute rapping and 2014's pop It Girl Grande steal the show from Jessie, "Bang Bang" did get her back on the charts and on people's minds in the U.S. The rest of Sweet Talker doesn't quite capitalize on that hit's sound or momentum; recorded in just three weeks, it finds J trying as many sounds and styles as possible in the hope that something will stick. The album's second single, "Burnin' Up," nods to rap via a cameo by 2 Chainz and to EDM with strobing synths; elsewhere, she returns to P!nk-esque pop on "Masterpiece" and "Said Too Much," a decent riff on "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" and the brash attitude of her debut on "Ain't Been Done." Likewise, the album's ballads run the gamut from the pretty but repetitive "Personal" to the more overwrought territory of "Get Away" and "Fire," which ends up sounding more frantic than dramatic thanks to J's rushed delivery. A few moments on Sweet Talker balance the album's extremes: "Seal Me with a Kiss," which features De La Soul, channels "Bang Bang"'s sense of fun into playful retro-soul with hip-hop flair, while "Keep Us Together" opts for a more mature R&B pop sound that feels a lot less contrived than much of the album. While Sweet Talker's lack of a clear artistic voice makes it wildly uneven, it just might be loud enough to regain American listeners' attention.

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