Jessie J


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Shedding the severe black bob, lipstick and nail polish she sported on Who You Are in favor of a stripped-bare look, Jessie J looked as different as she possibly could on the cover of Alive. Musically, however, there isn't much of a change -- or rather, there are too many: she does nearly as much style-hopping on her second album as she did on her debut. A few of Alive's songs nod to her P!nk-meets-Natasha Bedingfield hit "Domino," such as the brassy opening track "It's My Party" and "Sexy Lady," which tries for an empowering vibe but is let down by a weak chorus. For most of the album, Jessie J tries to show how wide her range is; while she's capable of writing and singing introspective and rousing songs equally well, more often than not her versatility is more of a curse than a blessing. There are some whiplash changes here: she follows the charmingly retro electro-pop of "Daydreamin'" with "Excuse My Rude," a dubstep-tinged kiss-off that takes "Do It Like a Dude"'s brassiness in an even more abrasive and aggressive direction. Similarly, Alive's emotions swing wildly between bold and vulnerable, and J's vocals on the album's more reflective songs tend toward the overwrought. This is especially true of "I Miss Her," a ballad with a tender melody that could be beautiful if it weren't for the overdone singing. Elsewhere, Alive feels oddly generic; songs like the title track seem like they could be sung by anyone, for better or worse. The album's reliance on ballads is especially frustrating when J comes, well, alive on simpler and more direct moments like "Wild"'s dance-pop and "Conquer the World," a duet with Brandy that attains the heartfelt mood so many other tracks here fail to reach. For all the effort put into Alive, it doesn't provide a clear identity for Jessie J other than that of a talented singer/songwriter who's still searching for her signature sound.

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