Think you know Jessie J? You don't, at least not according to her new album.
"You haven't seen the best of me," she sings on Sweet Talker, a collection of 12 songs -- 15 on the deluxe edition -- that seems hell-bent on shattering the pop world's preconceived notions of Ms. Jessica Cornish.
The singles you've probably heard off of the LP -- "Burnin' Up" featuring 2 Chainz and "Bang Bang" with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj -- are pretty standard for the 26-year-old Brit: vocals, vocals, vocals that hit hard and hit fast. But she displays a much softer side on the surrounding tracks, both sonically and lyrically.
Jessie even tackles her detractors head-on at times. And if the "blogs set up to debate, but only forsake" her and those who "won't stop until they tear [her] down" still think she's trying too hard, as I've sometimes seen repeated online, J has a suggestion: "You can turn it down."
I mean, this is album #3 for her; in case 2011's Who You Are or 2013's Alive didn't properly fill you in, Jessie's sound is loud -- like, really loud -- something she hints might even be a means to drown out her critics on the aptly titled "Loud." Calling that out as a negative is kind of a moot point here. You don't go to a Texas beauty pageant and complain that the hair's too big.
Sweet Talker won't actually be available in the States until Tuesday (October 14), but here's a track-by-track breakdown -- in Jessie J GIFs -- to give you a better sense of what each song has got to offer.
Allow the lady to (re)introduce herself.
From the top of the David Gamson-produced Sweet Talker opener, Jessie J is at peak Jessie J, spitting out her "I'ma do it like it ain't been done" refrain at lightning-quick speed. The rapid-fire verses transition into slowly building bridges, which eventually explode into considerably more laid-back, sing-along-ready choruses straight out of "Price Tag."
2.) "Burnin' Up" Featuring 2 Chainz
"I'm burnin' up, come put me out," J belts on the Axident and Ricky Reed-produced track #2, which she cowrote. Don't know what she's talking about? Look at the damn GIF.
3.) "Sweet Talker"
The Diplo-coproduced title track, cowritten by the London native, is the song you put on at the end of the night, when you're too exhausted to stand up but still 100% on your seduction game.
4.) "Bang Bang" With Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj
You know it. I know it. We've all heard the Max Martin-coproduced banger before. (It has only charted in the Top 5 of the Billboard Hot 100 since mid-September.) We know how hot it is. Why throw out a whole bunch of words when we can just agree that:
An interesting complement to "Burnin' Up," courtesy of John Newman and his partner in "Love Me Again" crime, Steve Booker. Where Jessie once begged her man to "come and put her [fire] out," she now exclaims that she "never [wants] to put it out" over a super-intense string section.
The Brit gets "too personal" on this tender ballad, the most introspective point on the album thus far.
From the #inspo hashtag on Instagram to this song, Jessie embraces positive mantras like "Those who mind don't matter/ Those who matter don't mind" over an easy-to-pick-up melody. Coloring outside the lines, even falling on her face are no longer weaknesses; she has reclaimed them to make herself "perfectly incomplete."
Expect this one to be a contender for the follow-up single to "Burnin' Up."
8.) "Seal Me With A Kiss" Featuring De La Soul
Speaking of candidates for Sweet Talker single #3, here comes "Seal Me With A Kiss."
Although the eighth song on the album interpolates "(Not Just) Knee Deep," it adds a shiny, pop-studio gloss to George Clinton's 1979 funk classic, and the result is more akin to "Emotions"-era Mariah Carey covering The Emotions' "Best Of My Love."
But, liiiiike... Does any of that sound like a bad thing?
9.) "Said Too Much"
I keep hearing Radiohead's "Creep" when I listen to "Said Too Much." I can't tell if I'm a musical genius or just sleep-deprived. (Gonna go with the latter.) Maybe it's the chord progression?
10.) "Loud" Featuring Lindsey Stirling
"Want me to pass the bar, but you're not on my team," Jessie sings on the Tricky Stewart and The-Dream-produced "Loud," one of the most direct indictments of the contemporary pop blogosphere I've heard in a while -- maybe ever.
"So, why/ Must I try to earn your love/ When I'm better than what I've been/ But that's not good enough?" Good question.
11.) "Keep Us Together"
Co-writer Sevyn Streeter's always good for some easy, breezy jams -- give or take the Breezy.
12.) "Get Away"
Somewhere in the middle of "Get Away," which closes the standard version of Sweet Talker, I realized that Jessie noticeably softened her sound for the second song in a row. Perhaps now that she'd gotten those anti-hater messages off her chest, she could finally sing the way they wanted -- but on her terms.
13.) "Your Loss I'm Found" [Bonus Track]
Hello, vaguely country-leaning bonus track. You are sad, but inspiring.
"One day when you discover," J sings on the song she cowote, "How bright I tried to love you now/ I won't be around/ Too late, your loss, I'm found."
14.) "Strip" [Bonus Track]
THERE IT IS. I HAVE FOUND THE STRUTTER.
15.) "You Don't Really Know Me" [Bonus Track]
The deluxe Sweet Talker closer, which Jessie cowrote, could not be any less "Bang Bang."
It's a vulnerable examination of how the brightest smile in the room often masks the greatest pain. How the person who frequently Instagrams inspirational quotes only does so because she needs them to get through the day.
"I'm going crazy when I'm not OK/ I keep praying that the cracks don't show my pain/ 'Cause even when I'm falling, I say my life is like a dream/ But I'm fighting through a nightmare, 'cause I'm not really being me," she sings, concluding, "You don't really know me."
Maybe now that Jessie has stopped sweet-talking all the time, we can finally do just that.
Jessie J's Sweet Talker will be released on October 14 on Republic Records.