Jessie Ware is inviting you to her dancefloor. Before the global pandemic, that dancefloor was a physical one, now it’s wherever you may be. What’s Your Pleasure?, Ware’s fourth album is a decadent disco-tinged collection of songs, designed for escapism. It’s a rare sort of record that commands you to dance from beginning to end and it arrives at a time when dancing in a communal setting is off-limits.
“I thought it was going to be far sexier and slightly more in front of people,” Ware says on the phone from London. Instead of rolling the album out under a glistening disco ball, she’s been up all night with a restless baby. Ware is a pleasure to talk to. She exudes warmth and puts up no facade, openly disclosing that she’s in her PJs and has just ordered cake for her daughter to keep her happy after a long night. She’s not disappointed about the circumstances by which she’s releasing the album under though. Instead, she’s embraced it with a series of excellent at-home performances and DIY music videos.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the end of the world. I’m chuffed that people are so excited and interested,” she says.
Strangely enough, lockdown actually suits this wonderous disco record. After all, Ware wrote it yearning for a sense of escapism. From the pulsating wanderlust of Save A Kiss to the sweaty allure of Read My Lips, it captures all the heightened emotion of the dancefloor as if delivered to you in a dream. As the title suggests, it’s a search for pleasure. For now, that pleasure is found in nostalgia for nights out.
“I love my kids, I love being a Mum but I think back to these wild nights I’d have where you were fanciful and free,” Ware says. It’s the second record she’s released since becoming a mother, the first being 2017’s Glasshouse. That record dealt with motherhood and a new stage of life from a present perspective whereas Where’s My Pleasure? allows her mind to wander.
“There’s something very nostalgic about nights out to me,” she continues.
“I wanted to make a record where I’d get that feeling every time I play it live. Basically be quite greedy. I wanted to express myself with all my fans. It sounds incredibly indulgent now I say it out loud but it was something I was missing and really wanting.”
If you had to pick a companion for this album from Ware’s discography, her debut album Devotion is the obvious choice. She arrived as a dance vocalist for the likes of SBTRKT and Disclosure. In her words, there was a “naivety” to that album that was lost on the following records.
Tough Love and Glasshouse are both excellent but there’s a weight to them that the bookending albums don’t have. Devotion was well-received by critics and even garnered commercial success. She was nominated for Brit Awards and charted in the top 5 in her home country. The album’s biggest single Wildest Moments even copped a verse from A$AP Rocky as America became interested.
Ware, who had arrived as part of the underground electronic scene now had popstar potential. Tough Love had a stellar cast of co-writers from Miguel to Ed Sheeran and Say You Love Me became her biggest hit. It put Ware in a difficult position where she felt she was treading a line between the alternative world and the pop world.
“I’ve been making good music as I go along but the freedom and that exit to stop caring about this impossible task has been liberating,” she says. Her podcast Table Manners is partly to thank for that. It began as a hobby project with her Mother but the celebrity wine and dine format has been a roaring success. So much so that she no longer has to worry as much about financing her life with music.
With a new label and management behind her, the pressure to compete in any world has fallen away allowing Ware to make what she wants to make. It’s a breakthrough that has been revolutionary for many pop artists, notably Robyn, Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX who started making the best music of their careers once they took their eye off the charts.
“I love being a 35-year-old woman. I feel empowered. It’s a wonderful feeling,” she proclaims reinvigorated. It’s an energy that permeates What’s Your Pleasure? It’s a wonderfully self-assured set buoyed by its alluring confidence. It lifts off with the grandiose, expansive Spotlight and comes back down to earth with Remember Where You Are - a song that finds its pleasure in the comfort of home. “Why don’t you take me home,” she sings, sounding more assured than ever. Euphoria found on the dancefloor is a sharp hit but everlasting happiness is found in where you return to. That cyclical journey through the night is one of the record’s greatest accomplishments.
In order to bring this feeling to life, Ware plans to reimagine her live show. For the last few albums, she’s invested in the full live band but found she was having to turn down shows because she simply couldn’t afford to deliver them. Inspired by the likes of Rosalia who performs without any band, Ware will have back-up singers who dance with her this time around.
“I’m not going to be Janet Jackson or Rosalia but I can feel freer,” she says.
It even looks like an Australian visit may be on the cards for the first time since she played Laneway Festival in 2013. “I want to do a podcast series and tour,” she says excitedly, eyeing a mid-year trip because of the “winter sun”.
“I’m glad we’re rekindling our romance Australia. You left me for a bit but that’s okay, I forgive you and I’m coming back.”