Live Review: Jessie J

Coalition, Brighton, January 15

[a]Jessie J[/a], you may have heard, has got great potential. Not just great, award-winning. Double award-winning, in fact, with both the BBC’s Sound of 2011 and the Brits’ Critics Choice accolades under her perfectly trimmed bob. That’s some damn fine potential.

In order to court votes for those awards, though, she’s had to be every kind of singer to every kind of person: a faux-American brat one minute, a mewling singer/songwriter the next. Fine when you’re hiding behind your YouTube channel, potentially awkward when you’re in a Brighton seafront club on a Saturday night performing to 200 screaming teenage girls.

They don’t seem bothered, mind. From the moment J is on stage, 20 minutes before her set, dancing to [a]Luther Vandross[/a] behind the DJ booth, they lap up her swagger. They comply when she asks for them to throw clothes at her and scream like hyenas when she sings [b]‘Happy Birthday’[/b] to one girl, who seemingly everyone knows. More importantly, she proves she’s not a one-trick pony. [b]‘Nobody’s Perfect’[/b] is even better than [b]‘Do It Like A Dude’[/b],a huge don’tfukwitme ballad that [a]Beyoncé[/a] would kill for.

Much of the rest though, is music for children and mums. [b]‘Stand Up’[/b], a catchy but meaningless ballad, is filled with the sort of vapid self-affirmation that verges on the Scientologous. It would make a decent track on a [b]Hannah Montana[/b] album, but the idea that this is the best new music has to offer is both dismal and a lie. Next single [b]‘Price Tag’[/b] would be deemed too wimpy for [i]Glee[/i]. It also doesn’t help that, throughout, her guitarist Ben is scoring the douchebag hat-trick: white man’s overbite, eyes closed during every song and furious [a]David Gray[/a] headshaking.

And then, just when everything’s turning into a gap year trip to [i]Camp Rock[/i], we’re back with [b]‘Do It Like A Dude’[/b]’s snarling, twisted, intelligent pop and you can’t believe it’s the same girl.

A great songwriter, which she is, is able to get in the mind of the artist they’re writing for. The problem is Jessie has continued to do that with
her own material, so tonight she’s playing different characters and some of them are brilliant. Her saving grace, and the only sense of continuity tonight, is what she says between songs – a rapport with her fans that’s endearing, obnoxious, respectful and genuinely funny. If J can harness her big-balled personality and project it consistently, then somewhere, under those personas, is some potential.

[b]Sam Wolfson[/b]