Jessie Ware – That! Feels Good!

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Jessie Ware That Feels Good review

Jessie Ware doesn’t leave a lot of room for ambiguity in the title track to her fifth album, That! Feels Good! A chorus of libidinous voices—including Kylie Minogue, Roisín Murphy (recorded in a bathroom stall) and actress Gemma Arterton—whisper the title phrase expressing what could very well be either post-, pre- or intracoital ecstasy. Most interpretations of a statement like “That! Feels good!” (two exclamation points, it should be noted), tend to lean toward the ribald, but Ware and her collaborators remove all doubt with just a few simple words, evoking the sticky, sweaty congress of bodies.

Ware’s always made sensual music, her early records such as 2012’s Devotion and 2014’s Tough Love finding the middle ground between SBTRKT and Sade. But even in moments such as 2017’s “Alone,” which Treble’s Liam Green then described as being about “married people needing to fuck too,” cast even more overt mentions of sexuality in relatively subtle tones. But after exploring the quiet intimacy of marriage and motherhood—and hosting a podcast about food with her mother (including a fairly memorable argument in front of guest Paul McCartney)—she embraced the liberation of four-on-the-floor rhythms and disco grooves on What’s Your Pleasure?, a glorious career-best album made to soundtrack people’s boudoir encounters (complete with a live-show whip). If that album didn’t do it—though frankly I’m not sure how that’s possible—That! Feels Good! should most assuredly set some loins on fire.

Reunited with What’s Your Pleasure? producer James Ford (Simian Mobile Disco) and bringing on board dancefloor maestro Stuart Price (Les Rhythmes Digitales/Jacques Lu Cont), Ware uses these 10 songs as an opportunity to explore every angle of the title track’s central thesis: “Just remember, pleasure is a right!” That pleasure is sometimes raunchy and explicit, as in the recounting of the sexual escapades of mama’s boys, lotharios and husbands with a more masculine side piece on “Shake the Bottle.” And sometimes that pleasure is affirming and empowering, on the standout early single “Free Yourself,” which pushes you to “keep on moving up that mountaintop.

Of course, everything here does feel good in large part because it all sounds so good. Which is an unspoken rule for albums about sex and dancing; Madonna, Donna Summer, plus Ware’s guest stars Minogue and Murphy all have been at their best when embracing disco-funk maximalism, and That! Feels Good! is no different. The pounding piano of “Free Yourself” is perhaps the most overt application of dopamine-rush hooks, but it’s one piece in a whole tour through a sequence of club-ready showpieces. Cowbells clang and horns blare through the queer celebration of “Beautiful People,” filtered French house grooves drive the ecstatic “Freak Me Now,” and lushly orchestrated productions in the vein of What’s Your Pleasure?‘s best songs return on standouts “Begin Again” and “These Lips.” Even at her most purely hedonistic, Ware never delivers a product that sounds less than wonderfully luxurious and indulgent.

There’s scarcely a moment on That! Feels Good! that breaks disco-diva kayfabe, and even its pair of kinda-sorta ballads are wrapped in silk boas and opera gloves, and one bottle of Dom Pérignon into the evening. If Ware already proved her strengths in taking on the corporeality of the dancefloor on What’s Your Pleasure?, then That! Feels Good! only doubles down on those same principles, delivering nothing less than pure entertainment and most often a potent aphrodisiac. While it never truly felt as if Jessie Ware had been holding anything back before, her pursuit of disco maximalism has never felt better.

Label: PMR/Interscope

Year: 2023

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