Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Jessie Ware – Spotlight

Well, we do like / Living under this “Spotlight”


Scott Mildenhall: Jessie Ware borders on the miraculous. It is stupefying how often she has sounded so at one with her songs; even when they’re written by Ed Sheeran, her presence is assured and reassuring, quietly commanding. Here she is an extension of the rhythm, and the strings an extension of her longueur. It’s magic that this is her career, and magic that she can make a song out of posh chocolate ice cream.

Will Adams: The warmth Ware brings to dance tracks is unmatched. “Spotlight” continues that legacy, with strings draped like silk and a melody that recalls Sally Shapiro’s farewell song, a similarly yearning gem. The “single edit” makes me hopeful for a 12″ version that keeps the disco fantasy going for over ten minutes.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: “Spotlight” is an immaculate study in unrequited longing and fantasy. It would slot perfectly in a playlist next to CRJ’s “Your Type” or Robyn’s “With Every Heartbeat,” but the predecessor the lyrics remind me most of is actually Katy B’s “I Wanna Be.” While the songs don’t sound too similar, both singers have a whisper-like, ethereal quality to their voices, and project strength even in their reserved dignity. But the comparison works more because the lyrics line up exactly: Jessie Ware’s “Tell me when I’ll get more than a dream of you, ‘cuz a dream is just a dream and I don’t wanna sleep tonight” is a perfect thematic twin to Katy B’s “You don’t know how good it is to dream of you, I take my time.” Both tracks are about love as a transient dream to be savoured, and the fantasy of our dreams being a place of light or dark. Luckily for Jessie, we loved the previous track, so I’m sure this one will get a lot of praise too.

Ian Mathers: I went and checked; sure enough, I gave the last couple Jessie Ware songs I blurbed here [7]s too. She might be my quintessential [7] artist, at least for one version of the score (none of the scores mean exactly the same thing in all cases, welcome to hell, idiot subjectivity, kind reader); the one where [7] means solidly excellent, wouldn’t turn away from the radio, fully capable of making me go “oh cool, I love Jessie Ware” when I hear it, but somehow not specifically enough to my taste enough that it becomes one of those songs or bands that are mine, you know?

Alfred Soto: The more assiduously she courts anonymity the stronger she sounds, but the beats could be faster or less designed to turn her into Annie Lennox with disco strings.

Michael Hong: Glasshouse painted foggy sketches of happiness as domesticity, shrouded not with mystery, but portrayed in a way where the details were unimportant. Here, it’s the reverse. The shape is more defined but clouded in whispered secrecy. “Spotlight” takes the form of its title — stare directly at Ware and you’ll be blinded by her radiance, but glance from one side and you’ll catch only its mystifying silhouette. Taken as a whole, it’s more sophisticated than earlier singles, creating tension with the crescent shape of her voice and not needing the previous trio of singles’ flash and bang.

Oliver Maier: Decadent disco that should make Mark Ronson green with envy, so exquisite-sounding that I feel like I need a platinum card just to hit replay. Ware is a pro at setting the mood with her velvety voice, but “Spotlight” represents a comprehensive level-up in her already-formidable songwriting. It wallows in the dark corners that Gloria Gaynor resolved to transcend (even sharing the ballad-into-bop bait-and-switch), using tragedy rather than triumph as its axis, though Ware’s yearning is so poised that I almost wish she would cut loose a little more. It’s not clear to me whether she’s a bona fide disco diva or just enchanted with the idea of cosplaying one; then again “Spotlight” seems to ask what the difference is at all, blurring the lines between reality and performance as moonlight and spotlight become interchangeable. Need I overthink it so much? It makes me want to dance on the table and swoon on the couch all at once, a vision of another sleepless night in a string of many that feel like the end of the world.

Pedro João Santos: A good song is like so, irrespective of any bonuses — but there should be a study on how music videos can enhance the auditory experience. Evidently, it works the audiovisual as a package; an extra medium/opportunity does further to monopolise your attention (music works hard, but the video works harder). But when the union is perfect, while the video mostly remains an opaque signifier for the music, the audio is affected for good. It’s recurrent in pop. Case in point: do you think of “We Found Love” and not relive that psychotropic mess of a relationship directed by Melina Matsoukas? I know “New Rules” wouldn’t have become half as much of a hit, but would we care about it expurgated from those images of choreographed sorority? Here’s Jessie Ware’s turn at confounding pop languages, with the disco partly via beauty, partly via foreshadowing of “Spotlight”. Call it orchestral Moroder + Ross for the 2020s: it’s “MacArthur Park” 2.0 in more than one way, but especially that falsetto-led intro, though the remake reverts to nocturnal bliss and the original boils to a speaking-in-tongues, devastating loss. It sets down a pathway (the visual goes for a hallway) where cryptic riffs meet slap bass, like hands in a darkroom — the chorus pops in like a trial, and all the other parts of the structure compete for the same vitality it’s afforded by nature; in other words, it drops hooks like dollar bills. When the second verse creeps in, the guitar has grown and strings are assumed in plain sight, and this amounts to its inherent visuality: a musical illustration of illumination, the night turning to day, daylight as a goal of dancing through the night. The video knows to play with lighting, never being too on the nose — and never afraid of digressing (the Serbian wedding dance!) — unlike the song, whose beauty belies the standard hodgepodge of nighttime infatuations. But who cares? When the middle-8 arises, with the “can’t keep” anaphor, it comes in like the suavest dark horse in musical history — and smoothly catapults the chorus to ecstasy. But the frisson is reserved for the very end: “Tell me when I’ll get more than a dream of you” floats like the resolution to the melody teased by strings in the bridge. It all comes out flowing: the spotlight only works in negation of the darkness.

Reader average: [7.17] (23 votes)

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2 Responses to “Jessie Ware – Spotlight”

  1. mathers — on the money here

  2. Cheers!