Jessie J has a new album in the can — a project that the British pop star co-wrote with super-producer Ryan Tedder, and was previewed last month by the exuberant disco-pop track “I Want Love.”
“The album feels great,” she tells Billboard of the follow-up to her 2018 project R.O.S.E., during a Zoom call earlier this week. “The music feels great. I just wish I could sing the bloody songs.”
Throughout 2021, Jessie J has been battling what remains an unknown throat issue, experiencing physical pain while singing and even speaking for extended periods of time. The “Bang Bang” singer discussed the issue on Instagram last month as a means of explaining the lack of promo she had done upon the release of “I Want Love,” writing, “I am still in pain everyday.”
The problems began on Christmas Eve last year, when Jessie J woke up and couldn’t hear anything out of her right ear and felt an extreme sense of dizziness. She was diagnosed with Ménière’s disease, an inner ear disorder, and was placed on steroids to deal with the issue.
“It was not long after that I started to have this burn in my throat,” the 33-year-old singer-songwriter recalls. “And it was like, ‘Oh, it’s acid reflux, just take some Pepcid.’ And obviously, it just hasn’t got any better — it’s gotten worse and worse. And I’ve done everything you can imagine, from eating [the same] three things for two months, to acupuncture, massage, medication. I’ve had procedures done. I’ve had everything done.”
Jessie J says that, although the area around her vocal cords are inflamed, she’s been told that her vocal cords face no threat of meaningful damage. And while she’s thankful for that distinction, the lack of clarity around what to do next has been maddening, especially as she prepares the release of her next project.
“I mean, the amount of time and energy — it’s been over six months now,” she says. “I just want to do what I love — and obviously, before this whole shebang, we had a year where we couldn’t [due to the pandemic]. So I’m just trying to stay in good spirits, stay working out, make a diary of everything I’m eating. But I really don’t know when it will be great.”
Kind words and encouragement from her peers have helped in the weeks since Jessie J revealed her throat issues on Instagram. “I’ve had so many amazing people reach out to me — Demi [Lovato], Ari [Grande], John Mayer, Tori [Kelly],” she says. “Literally so many people reached out to give me advice, that have been through it. And it just makes you feel less alone.”
With her new album set for release before the end of the year on Lava/Republic, Jessie J — who’s scored multiple No. 1 singles in her native U.K., and hit the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 with “Domino” and “Bang Bang” — hopes that she’ll be able to discuss the project at length in a way that’s not physically painful, or perform the songs without causing inflammation. Along with Tedder, she worked with producer/songwriter Claude Kelly on the project, and tapped Justin Tranter for one of the tracks.
“It’s very emotional,” she says of the new album. “There are sad songs, and it’s up and it’s down, but it’s very unapologetic in whatever it is. I have a song that’s a love letter to London, and there are other songs about just being free and really hype, and then there are cocky songs. But honestly, I just had fun writing this record with Ryan Tedder, who’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with… We just pulled the best out in each other and really challenged each other.”
Until its release, Jessie J is hoping that her physical ailments, whenever they come, turn a bit simpler. “It’s just like, can I just get a cold? I never catch a common cold!” she says with a laugh. “Sometimes I struggle, other days I’m okay. It’s definitely the biggest test I’ve ever had, for sure, with my health. But I’m trying to stay positive.”