We’re in a small room in the lobby of Marina Bay Sands, where the Sands for Singapore youth choir beneficiaries are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the one and only Jessie J. After running through their tuneful rendition of her hit song “Masterpiece” a few times, finally she enters the room looking stunning – in a floor length black-and-white dress with an extremely strong hair game.
“You guys are gonna make me cry. That was so beautiful, keep striving and pushing to live your dream. Sing loud, and never stop.”
After the choir finished their performance, Jessie kindly obliged a selfie with every single member of the group – with whom she chatted and joked with as she went along. She even presented them with autographed tickets to her performance at the Singapore International Jazz Festival later that night, and spontaneously offered them the opportunity to sing “Masterpiece” on stage with her that very night.
After Jessie was done being a superb human being, it was finally our time to sit down and have a chat with her. Her life is obviously a hectic whirlwind, in which she travels from place to place on little to no sleep. She told us how she hopped on a plane at 6am from Sydney and got no sleep all the way to Singapore. We laughed as she told us that she spent the time colour coding the next few months of her life in her diary, but turned sombre as she said “I guess this is my life now”.
She also talked about her style, saying that she feels guilty splurging on expensive items – her preferred way to shop would be to buy in bulk at lower end stores like Zara and Topshop, but to buy statement pieces from her favoured higher end brands – she mentioned Celine and Givenchy. She jokingly said that she’d have to do 20 shows to justify buying a top in Celine, and that it was all about balancing different brands with different price tags to create an outfit she likes.
On her previous style – she elaborated more pensively, saying that the “early Jessie J stuff” was overwhelming. She said she’d watch her performances back and see that she had a big personality and a big voice (both of which she wasn’t ever willing to tone down) but that she also had big, elaborate and in your face costumes. She said that watching her previous performances was like a sensory overload, and that it detracted from her vocal ability – which as we all know is stellar. She thinks that her latest album “Sweet Talker” works because it’s all about showcasing her voice.
Jessie J hopes the music industry follows in the same route — one of “quality” and that it doesn’t turn into an industry that is overtly reliant on machines. She briefly mentioned not liking AutoTune; if she’s working with a producer and they put “tuner” on her voice, she commands them to take it off. Reasonably, she said that auto-tuning her voice made her lazy – it made her stop striving to make her voice better, and allowed her to be reliant upon alterations in the studio.
Those moves paid off handsomely, because there is an innate quality about Jessie’s powerhouse vocals that is best felt live, in all of its raw glory. That was certainly felt at her performance later that night, where she ad-libbed and belted her way through her three-album repertoire in under 80 minutes.
For those who questioned her involvement in a jazz festival, one only has to look at her improvisational work as she flits through note to note, barely catching her breath as her voice unravels in the merriment of the music. Even in a reggae-infused rendition of “Price Tag”, Jessie still manages to keep it playful while balancing her serious vocal acrobatic chops.
As she was singing tunes from her third album Sweet Talker, it became apparent not many people knew her newer material — an attempt to do a sing-along was met with lukewarm response. Jessie addressed this afterwards, highlighting the different types of people at festivals — those who do dance by themselves, those who don’t know any of the words to the songs (plus those who do) and those who were someone’s +1 “and don’t know who I am”.
“Thank you for accepting me in whichever state I am,” she said.
Jessie, we love you for exactly who you are. No Auto-Tune, please.
Additional reporting by Kyle Malinda-White
Press meet photos: Marina Bay Sands, concert photos: Sing Jazz 2015