The rise and rise of Jessie “J” Cornish is quite unlike anything the music industry has seen for years. Debut single ‘Do It Like A Dude’ was released at the back end of 2010 to a rather modest chart placement; following which came a burst of One To Watch accolades, heaps and heaps of publicity, and airplay support from pretty much all mainstream radio stations. The song eventually found its way up to No2, sophomore release ‘Price Tag’ became an instant No1, and now, months earlier than originally planned, we have début LP ‘Who You Are’.
Cornish has been compared on numerous occasions to a British Katy Perry, and the similarities are rife here: the occasional self-empowerment anthem (‘Stand Up’), the occasional tongue-in-cheek monster hit (‘Do It Like A Dude’), and the occasional stroke of absolute pop genius (‘Price Tag’). But, as with both of Mrs Brand’s albums, at times the set is either lacking in substance or jarringly over-doing it. Somewhere, for example, there’s a really affecting song waiting to be heard in ‘Big White Room’, but melodramatic show-off vocals just make it irritating and scupper any possibility of emotional resonance. Elsewhere, early-album tracks ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ and ‘Abracadabra’ get things off to an underwhelming start (particularly as they have to follow ‘Price Tag’) and ‘Who’s Laughing Now’ walks a thin tightrope between triumphant and smug.
Still, there’s plenty of fun to be had, particularly on the second half of the disc. ‘Rainbow’ would sound great on the radio, The Voice gets a chance to run wild on ‘Mamma Knows Best’, and ‘L.O.V.E’ would sound absoloutley brilliant on tour. In fact ‘Who You Are’ does generally show all the signs of a cracking songwriter with one of the industry’s most impressive vocal ranges. But in spite of her ability to impress, she’s never really that likeable. That, we can only assume, will come when she learns to reign in the vocal acrobatics and let less be more.