On her fourth studio album, Jessie Ware looked to tap into the club sounds that inspired her. The result is What’s Your Pleasure?, a musical time capsule of sorts that chronicles decades of house. This ode to the ’70s-, ’80s- and ’90s-era club sounds fuses together under the watch of collaborator James Ford to create a cohesive collection of dance-inspired tracks.
Opener “Spotlight” sets the tone for what’s to come, clocking in at over five minutes of ’80s-inspired synth-pop. Like much of the album, the arrangements and writing are sophisticated while never overpowering the song as a whole. The instrumentation works in concert with Ware’s smooth vocals to move the track forward.
Title track “Whats Your Pleasure” turns back the clock another decade for a stylized ’70s bass-driven bop. The beat-forward track complements Ware’s throwback vocal harmonies, singing the infectious repeated hook of “Here together/ What’s your pleasure?” A wall of synths and samples builds up to bring the song home in its closing moments. Dance floor anthem “Ooh La La” also builds off of a distinct bass line that leads the way throughout. Ware changes up the pace vocally with quick, harmonized staccato phrasing.
“Soul Control” opens with an 8-bit inspired synth intro before the drum and bass intro kick in to fill the arrangement. Yet again, Ware delivers a memorable dance anthem that leans into classic influences. The album’s sound doesn’t stray too far from the nostalgic ode to dance floor eras of the past, but that’s where it displays its strengths. “Save a Kiss” comes across as more modern in its tone, mixing elements of Europop influences, with a pulsing backbeat that feels massive without becoming obtrusive. The track also mixes in a little bit of Gaga-esque bombast with some orchestral flourishes.
Ware doesn’t necessarily slow things down. Instead, she simplifies her sound for the dance balladry of “Adore You,” a song that gives her the atmospheric space to experiment more with her vocals. The track also brings back the aforementioned 8-bit synths as it fades into the dark. “In Your Eyes” is a far more suave and sleek romanticism of late ’80s or early ’90s balladry, mixing a bass and synth instrumental with a heavy dose of strings. Ware’s understated delivery meshes well and makes it the highlight moment on the record. “Step Into My Life” takes things right back to a full-fledged ’70s sound, with a highly percussive, reverb-washed style and cinematic orchestral vibe.
“Read My Lips” is a big, bold and playful love song that finds it’s influence from early-era Madonna, as Ware sings to a shy suitor: “If you want to know the truth/ Read my lips/ ‘Cause they’re telling you to make a move/ Steal a kiss.” Ware sticks to these throwback influences, while presenting the track with a Daft-Punk-influenced take on “Mirage (Don’t Stop),” a sleek track that thrives in the harmonized chorus.
The album closes with the one-two punch of “The Kill” and “Remember Where You Are,” a swaying retro dance song. Jessie Ware’s album is a passionate ode to the eras of house music gone by. While it doesn’t often stray from its core sound, the album effectively melds together generations of music to make a cohesive piece. In many ways, the album serves as a playlist reflecting changes in each decade it draws from, echoing different eras and honoring the evolution.
Follow writer Mike DeWald at Twitter.com/mike_dewald.