Jessie J at HMV Oxford Street
It’s a rainy Monday afternoon in Central London and most artists with only a handful of singles under their belt would struggle to muster a decent crowd for an under-publicised in-store appearance. However, today, the 14th May, the artist in question is Jessie J, a singular talent hyped to within an inch of her life by rabid A&R executives and already in the throes of superstardom thanks to high-profile gigs with Universal Music and The Voice. So by the time she takes the stage, introduced by former Spice Girl Mel C in what comes across as a pretty clear passing of the musical baton, the usually sterile shop floor is at fever pitch.
With just an acoustic guitar and some light percussion for backing, what comes across most is her voice, vaulting to impossible heights with consummate ease. The incessant trills and quirky stuttering can be a hindrance, like on the over-emotive Nobody’s Perfect, but it’s genuinely refreshing to have a pop star who can actually hold a tune. Stripped of its inane production and redundant B.o.B guest verse, even Price Tag comes across as bearable and even a little fun, despite its brutal overexposure in recent times – the crowd are quick to join in on the chorus and shout back the lyrics at the slightest prompt.
Throughout the short set, Jessie J’s genuine love of performing is almost palpable. Her personable, everywoman ramblings preceding each track, coupled with some unrestrained mugging at fans in the front row, give far more insight into her bubbly personality than any of the uninspired lyrical couplets which her detractors are quick to seize upon. The highlight of the afternoon comes when a fan asks for a personalised video on their phone – she not only acquiesces but ad-libs an entire song singing directly into the phone, before leading into triumphant closing number Domino.
Funny, down-to-earth and baffled by her new-found fame, whilst embracing it whole-heartedly, it’s little wonder Jessie J has won over the British public in such a short time. Her songs still strike me as underwhelming pop-by-committee, but that just makes today’s gig all the more impressive. The event was staged to promote Music Is Great Britain, a new live music DVD, celebrating iconic live performances by British artists down the years to raise money for the charity Save The Children. It seems appropriate that the star attraction put on a great show, with such unremarkable source material – proving that in the right hands, all music sounds better live.
Photo: Katie Harris
Watch the video for Domino here: