Jessie Ware is likely still riding high from exchanging nuptials over the summer. Considering her 2012 debut album Devotion was a chapter-by-chapter chronicle on matters of her heart — pitfalls and all — one might make the assumption that now that she’s a Mrs. her new release, Tough Love, would be downright cheery with umpteen blissful tracks. But that’s not the case, as joy only makes a few wide-smiled appearances on her sophomore set.
Instead, there’s annoyance (“Say You Love Me”), stoically delivered passive aggression (“Cruel”) and longing (“Want Your Feeling”). The 11-song showing either is a diary of past relationships or maybe a look back at troubled times her and beau Sam Burrows defeated on the way to wedding day. The cuts play like a conversation between two that others get to eavesdrop on.
Musically the set boasts no dazzling production. Tracks are kept short with mostly two verses and quick bridges (when they happen). There’s an ’80s coming-of-age simplicity here with its synths and kicks, but also enough weight lyrically (“I want to feel passion flow into my bones like blood through my veins”) for it to be delivered by an adult with grown feelings. Tough Love‘s solid, furthering Ware’s heart-on-sleeve catalogue, even when her most vital organ is happily owned by someone else.
For a track-by-track look at Jessie Ware’s Tough Love, read on.
“Tough Love”: The album’s title track begins the set with Jessie talking directly to her love interest. He’s not sure if their relationship is strong, wondering if Jessie’s “mind is true.” On the sparse cut, Ware tells him he’s all she thinks about, and also tells him that love will be much harder to decipher, “When your heart becomes a million different pieces.”
“You & I (Forever)”: “This one I’m not gonna lose,” sings Jessie over simple drums and guitar licks, trying to let her man know that, “this is all that you need.”
“Cruel”: Though her delivery is as mellow and chill as the first two tracks, this is the first song on the album that feels urgent, with its tumbling drums and claps. Jessie’s words pack punches, too. “You need to make your mind up,” she orders after realizing that her love’s actions don’t match his words. “Never knew our love could be so cruel,” Ware continues. “It’s not just what you say, it’s what you do.”
“Say You Love Me”: On this ballad Jessie needs and demands that she gets the emotions that her beau allegedly has for her. “I want to feel burning flames when you say my name,” she sings. The track eventually builds to its massive choir bridge, similar to fellow UK singer Sam Smith‘s “Stay With Me.” “Won’t you stay,” she pleads quietly as the track concludes.
“Sweetest Song”: Synths cruise in wistfully on this dreamy cut. “I could hear your song forever,” Jessie lovingly exhales. “You’re the sweetest, sweetest song.”
“Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe”: Ware opens this one up by telling her man that she drinks whiskey to keep from feeling lonely. And though she’s trying to play tough, she can’t help but to “kind of, sometimes, maybe” miss him. Singer-songwriter Miguel make subtle appearances, and when she talks about being afraid of the dark, he pops in to ask, “You need some company?”
“Want Your Feeling”: Co-produced by singer-songwriter Devonté Hynes, this one for sure sounds like a throwback but still a current cut from his Blood Orange discography. Here he tickles the guitar while Ware tells her lover that their love has not dimmed just yet: “Light’s still shining in the room you left me in.”
“Pieces”: This heavy balled finds Ware realizing that she’s a broken woman after her relationship’s over. Singing of the pieces of her heart she’d given to him, she begs him to “give them to someone else.”
“Keep On Lying”: On this track, Ware’s being lied to so often that she’d rather believe the supposed truths she getting than fully immerse herself in what’s real, comparing the blind journey to “heaven in hell.” “Keep on lying to me,” she insists. “Keep on lying to me, darling.”
“Champagne Kisses”: “Who’s fault is this that I’m crazy about you,” Ware asks here. Good question. The guy she’s fallen for created the frenzy that she has for him and she’s not coming down from the high. She coos for him to keep doing what got him into her heart: give her supreme love.
“Desire”: Ware closes the album longing for a man that’s been on her mind for ages. Still, she’s unsure. This tracks airy feel could easily fit a daydream scene as the leading lady looks off into the clouds and wonders aloud, “Am I seeing/ Am I feeling now/ That I want you/ That I need you…”