Perhaps people like Jess Glynne because she isn’t constantly seeking attention. The lack of an abhorrent personality and shock tactics, in conjunction with the clarity of influence from old-school divas like Aretha Franklin and Mariah Carey, give her a credibility with a wider audience that many of her potty-mouthed peers lack. Hell, even classical music fans have been known to dig it, thanks to Glynne’s concurrent rise to fame with neo-classical house band Clean Bandit, and it’s refreshing to see. She wears clothes, not costumes. She is a pragmatic, no-nonsense woman, an inoffensive popstar unlikely to be found having a public spat on Twitter about something silly and superficial — and a Londoner, just like me.
Perhaps fellow Londoner Lily Allen has too much personality for the average listener, and perhaps Leona Lewis has too little. In many ways, Jess Glynne hits a sweet spot for general music fans, clubbers and dancers alike. As the vocalist of Clean Bandit’s meteoric “Rather Be” in 2014, she has unexpectedly crafted a career of hits even the band themselves hasn’t managed to replicate. Unlike Clean Bandit, however, there’s very little new ground covered on her album. Glynne isn’t yet sufficiently practised to float a whole new genre, nor are her lyrics even nearly gritty enough to fill the mammoth shoes left empty with the passing of one of her idols, Amy Winehouse. Though, granted, neither is she cookie-cutter enough to share space with the likes of Rita Ora and Jessie J’s poor recent attempts to capture the US market – apart from a few soppy ballads, including ‘Take Me Home’, which relies on a chord progression so commonplace in pop music that it almost loses its entire credibility before the vocals even start. Mostly on I Cry When I Laugh, she efficiently capitalises on her well-established genre.
By and large, the songs here all sound different, although very much in the same vein. The pop melodies are strong and the voice that carries them is soulful, true, and lacks the grating, poorly-hidden auto-tune found in many of today’s chart-topping pop tunes. Almost half the deluxe set has been readily available in single form for some time. At the time of writing, and subject to change, five of these tracks have spent a combined ten weeks atop the UK singles chart. It is this setup that makes I Cry When I Laugh almost sure to be a hit album, too. The instrumentation includes brass, orchestral strings and, in the case of ‘Why Me’, a bassline that hits close to 80s R&B. The drums are light and also fairly nostalgic, although they perhaps only stand out on the duet with Emeli Sandé, ‘Saddest Vanilla’, which is otherwise just chart-bait; a mid-tempo ballad which surely has a shot at the #1 spot, with two of the most successful featured vocalists of the past half-decade.
It was a pop album full of hits before it was even released, and that as a feat is becoming far less common in the modern era. However, that may not translate into album sales; how many more hit singles can this album give? Jess Glynne is conceivably the most unpretentious and gracious pop star of the new decade, and the degree of success this album receives will prove the amount of longevity she’s entitled to.