Jessie Ware’s Running was our third best song of the year so far, and her new single, 110% is just as wonderful, if not more so, and may, just may, indicate a new direction for pop.
Written by Jessie, a woman from London in her mid-twenties, and produced by Julio Bashmore, a Bristolian DJ a little younger, and shot by Kate Moross, it’s deeply indebted to the post-dubstep scene. Around 2010, all three were working in this world, Jessie working with SBTRKT on Nervous, Bashmore starting to show his pop colours with Batak’s Groove and Kate Moross designing sleeves for Zomby.
The song itself stems from that gaseous sound. There are the stuttering drums, soft-synth chords and hissing sound filling of the midrange, of course. But it’s more than that. What’s so thrilling about 110% is that play between tension and release, and softness and grit that was so key to the sound of 2010. Unlike much pop at the moment, which signals nothing other than its humongous, domineering POPness, 110% sounds subtle, confident and unhurried, unaware of expectation. Dubstep has alway been oddly coy music, especially for dance music, with a huge emphasis on listeners working through the beats to find the song inside. After a few years of wobble-bounce aggro (as fun as that can be), it’s nice that we’re getting back to where it began.
Beyond London dance music’s evolution, 110% speaks to where soul came from – love songs by people who mean what they sing. In Jessie’s world, the coy, unhurried, tension-release of London dance music and soul’s long, love-wrought heritage meet to devastating effect, and on the dancefloor. The club is such an institution in modern top 40 tracks, as is shagging, but it’s so rarely written about with emotional delicacy. So it’s refreshing to hear one recorded by someone who’s actually been in the middle of the floor, waiting for someone fit to look over, and it’s nice to hear desire sang about as it’s experienced. Lots of singers have sung about dancing by yourself – from Aswad to Madonna to Robyn – but none with the assurance and grace of Jessie Ware. 110% makes sex and desire sound as light and natural as those two things really are, which, in 2012’s blankly OTT pop world, is revolutionary. Clutch your hands over your heart, world, and sing. Behind this, one hundred and ten percent.