Wednesday, September 9, 2015

I Cry When I Laugh | Jess Glynne

Remember the career development of British singer-songwriter Foxes? She broke through with a vocal credit on Zedd's "Clarity" a few years ago, picked up a Grammy for the track, and found solo success in her native country. I bring her up because it is strange how closely the breakthrough of Jess Glynne resembles that of Foxes. A fellow Brit, Glynne was the vocal power behind Clean Bandit's summer smash "Rather Be," for which she earned a Grammy for Best Dance Recording. Now that she can fly on her own, Glynne wants solo success with her debut album, I Cry When I Laugh.

Glynne's voice, which is luckily unscathed from a recent vocal cord surgery alike the necessary repairs to the voices of Adele, Sam Smith, and Meghan Trainor, is warm and soulful. As if her Clean Bandit collaborations ("Rather Be" is included on the American pressing of this album, and "Real Love" on the European variant) didn't prove this already, she can hold her own against any production element thrown her way with ease. Her voice is an unshakable element that adds life to nearly every song (minus "Saddest Vanilla," a duet with Emeli Sandé that brings this otherwise-enjoyable set to a standstill) and holds everything together. 

Singles "Hold My Hand" and "Don't Be So Hard on Yourself" showcase exactly what there is to expect on the full album: whirlwinds of disco and europop production, unbreakable layers of vocal harmonies, and a potent touch of soul. (She breaks that pattern on only the aforementioned "Saddest Vanilla" and the acoustic track "My Love," which is the only time we hear vulnerability tinge her otherwise boastful, confident voice.) The soul qualities really gleam through as each song blossoms and Glynne really unleashes the beast that is her voice. "Gave Me Something" is quality throughout, but really becomes ear-catching as the layers of her vocals build atop a gospel choir in the chorus repetitions. Something similar could be said for "Why Me," the closest Glynne gets to a deep house sound. Each chorus swells bigger and bigger with vocals, swaying synths, and that backing choir.

This album does a great job with consistency, but falls short when it comes to distinction between songs. The album as a whole does give Glynne an identity, mainly due to that voice; if I were to hear one of these songs on the radio, I could immediately point out that it is a Jess Glynne original. However, which Jess Glynne song is it? Take "You Can Find Me," a track that is meant to be the liveliest fusion of her sonic influences, but unfortunately lacks the spark and accumulation of some of the other tracks here; I wouldn't be able to pick it out of a line up of her other songs. It's hard to perfect the balance between cohesion and variety, so Glynne chose to focus on the former and let her voice do most of the talking, singing, laughing, and crying. She has the chops to go far in this industry; she just needs to make a longer lasting testament than this bag of dance floor-filling fun.

I Cry When I Laugh will be available on September 11, 2015 in the United States under Atlantic Records.

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