That! Feels Good (Clash/EMI)
IT WAS PRETTY COMPREHENSIVELY answered last time of asking, in 2020, but in case it wasn’t clear then, when Jessie Ware’s most recent album asked What’s Your Pleasure?, the answer was and is, this. Or That!
That! Feels Good! isn’t just about the pleasure principle – it does after all cover Ware as mother, lover, dancer, seeker. And baker, maker, shaker for that matter – but it sure is pleasurable. And danceable, and singable. A pop record for the dancefloor, a dance record for the afternoon and morning as well. An upgrade in sound and impact on the already impressive What’s Your Pleasure?
But let’s take the serious/important stuff first, before we get to the fun, to show we are paying attention and not just shaking parts of our body in embarrassing public displays. (Yes, I’m talking about myself and not you, you trim, taut and terrific youngster who doesn’t know how to feel shame yet. Bastard.)
While eschewing anything too didactic, Ware focuses on celebrating the fact that she, and by extension, we, can be more than one thing and sometimes all of those things at once. And that those things can be enjoyed.
It’s not some soft touch “you can have it all” update, or some self-centred “I deserve it all” stance – a realist and mother, Ware is not an arsehole – more a reclamation of the idea that “pleasure is a right”, as she sings in the title track, and looking for it is just fine.
So, where would you find this pleasure? Bed (or floor, or table, or chair), with Shake The Bottle giving some instructions and These Lips offering some invitations; on your own (if you can’t please yourself, how will anybody else do it?), with Free Yourself and Pearls celebrating loosening the bonds; or maybe in the expectation (which is after all half the fun), as Hello Love and Beautiful People tantalise. You good with those for starters?
Okay, that’s the what and where sorted, let’s talk about the how. The pure fun bit.
Free Yourself enters with piano that is at least as much honky chateau as house, slaps down a strutting rhythm and then big ups Ware’s voice so that she gives a bit of big shoulderpad Valkyrie, all the better for stamping out fires every time the verses amble in close. Begin Again merges an Afro-Cuban bottom end with a smooth Fifth Dimension’s-style pop top, and then ups the sense of go-go dancers rising higher so your hands may find themselves up and waving without you noticing.
These Lips has layers of vocals that practically caress the strings accompanying them, promising some slow groove balladry maybe, only to open the door to Sir Duke brass, a bassline that knows its way around Thriller, and just enough Latin overtures to put the glide in any move. So easy to dance to.
But these aren’t even the best of the songs here.
The way Pearls creamily croons its introduction gives barely a hint of the louche-in-the-hips bassline approaching, which in turn never quite prepares you for the way the post-chorus escalation flicks the switch to a glorious Chaka Khan euphoria. The Gap Band funky bones and fading up trumpet of That! Feels Good is matched by fast-stepping lead vocals and theatrical backing voices. And while Beautiful People scatters cowbell and other percussion, with wry, half-rapped delivery, over a rolling quicksilver bass, and Lightning eases back into a glittery mid-tempo serenade, Hello Love feels like Ware discovered the silky-smooth template for both Texas and Sade. So easy to like.
Yeah, if you’re still asking, That! does indeed feel good!