England has recently given us a string of female one-album wonders in pop music. Amy Winehouse, Duffy, Leona Lewis, Kate Nash, Lily Allen and Imogen Heap all made a splash in the States, then pretty much disappeared. Adele was the exception. She has delivered two Grammy-winning blockbuster albums.
Put your money on Jessie J, a powerhouse vocalist, to be the next British pop wonder woman.
The 27-year-old Londoner has had three hit albums in the U.K. and just three hit singles in the U.S. But at her sold-out concert Monday at First Avenue in Minneapolis, she showed the voice, personality and stage presence of a champion. Now she just needs more distinctive material.
If Beyoncé and Pink had a baby girl, she'd probably grow up to sound like Jessie J. She demonstrated the playful spunk of Pink, the churchy soulfulness of Beyoncé and the don't-mess-with-me, empowering attitude of both of them. And she commanded the stage like she belonged there on her first headline tour — friendly, spontaneous, gracious, real and in the moment, which was why she was a little giddy.
The newcomer gave one of the more creative shout-outs to Prince, a necessity when an out-of-towner visits First Ave for the first time. During "Price Tag," her 2011 U.S. breakthrough, she asked the fans to sing. Then on the next refrain, she invited Prince to sing, holding her mic into the crowd and hearing complete silence.
She was chatty, telling stories including how she discovered her lot in life as a singer when she heard Whitney Houston. So she felt compelled to honor Houston with a taste of "I Have Nothing," which demonstrated Jessie J's world-class voice. She may have apologized at one point for having a cold, but she seemed about as hampered as Tom Brady quarterbacking with a fully inflated football. What a knockout singer!
Her voice was rich, rangy and restrained when necessary. She could take you to church with gospelly testifying or rock out with some Alanis Morissette-like vibrato. At times, it might have seemed as if she were performing rather than connecting deeply with the emotions of her lyrics. But that happened on the songs that were inferior in content.
Her soulful electro-pop with occasional hip-hop beats sounded better in concert than on recording. Seldom do her tunes sound original; one would evoke Pink, another Katy Perry, another Rihanna, another Beyoncé, another Christina Aguilera. But Jessie wins you over with her presence, voice and how they combine to sell a song.
She cut a striking figure with her turquoise bob, short shorts, gauzy T-shirt emblazoned with "MINNEAPOLIS" and legs that would get ZZ Top drooling. She ruled the stage not like a superstar but like an enthusiastic fan acting out her fantasies. She killed with her wondrous voice on the disco-y "Burnin' Up," the ballad "Nobody's Perfect" and the explosive "Bang Bang."
It added up to the most exciting show by a radio pop star in a Twin Cities club in recent memory.