Jess Glynne struggles to stand out on sophomore album
A lot has been said and written about the astonishing success of Jess Glynne. Baffling or not, she currently is the British female artist with the most number 1 hits. Sure, five of the eight chart toppers were collaborations, but her debut album I Cry When I Laugh (released in 2015) sold bucket loads too. Lead single ‘I’ll Be There’ from the follow up managed to hit number 1 in the UK after a long chart run, showing she had not lost her magic just yet. She now dropped the full thing, titled Always In Between and it raises the question if there is much of a future for Jess Glynne the pop star.
Whether you like her mellow radio pop or not, you have got to hand it to her. After her breakthrough hit ‘Rather Be’ with Clean Bandit, she has written some undeniably strong pop songs for herself and always managed to be part of the right collaborations. Glynne is not the type of pop star that oozes personality and appears in every talkshow for an interview, but it is her music that actually sells. Although this is admirable, Always In Between shows little to no sonic progress from her debut and that is a worrying sign.
With tracks like ‘Hold My Hand’ and ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’, Glynne found herself a successful formula that she is happy to repeat here. Second single ‘All I Am’ is simply a lesser version of both tracks, while ‘No One’ follows the same predictable structure of piano based beats and an infectious sing-along chorus. Having said that, the post-chorus of this track is one of the strongest moments melodically. ‘Broken’ seems to be designed as the ‘Take Me Home’ of this record, but falls flat in more than one aspect. Sure, her vocal performance is decent, but lyrically things get painfully cliche opening with the lines: “Sometimes when I fall down low and I got no where else to go, I hide myself, don’t let it show, but you find me.” The production sounds hollow and no backing vocal choir could save this song.
The latest single ‘Thursday’ is supposed to be a personal moment on the record where Jess opens up about her insecurities and encourages others to not change for anyone. The pop world has been flooded with self love anthems in recent years and this one with lyrics about wearing sweat pants on Thursday sure won’t go down in history as one of the best. Always In Between becomes more enjoyable when Glynne and her team at least attempt to broaden the boundaries of her musical comfort zone. ‘Rollin”, for example, is soulfully swinging with trumpets and a funky rhythm. Admitted, the swear words seem a bit forced and out of character, but it at least sounds like she was having fun rather than operating on auto pilot. The same goes for ‘Million Reasons’, which surprisingly is only a bonus track. The seductive synth production is the perfect backdrop for the lyrics about not being able to stay away from the lover you know won’t do you any good in the long run. Unfortunately for every more exciting tune, we have to get through the instantly forgettable and faceless tracks like ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘Hate/Love’.
Although there is no doubt that Glynne has another commercial success on her hands with Always In Between, judging by the chart performance of the singles, but she would profit from a more future focused career plan if she wants to succeed as a pop star. Her catchy tunes will work well on the radio for a while, until the next trend comes along. The sound of her second record is hardly any different from her debut and it lacks any personal enough content that would set her apart from other generic pop stars out there. Nothing on Always In Between taught me anything about Jess Glynne as a person(a). There is much to say for writing songs with the masses in mind and that is what they were going for with never specific, border on cliche, lyrical themes. When doing that, you run the risk of being too generic to be relatable. On Always In Between Jess Glynne is playing with fire.