- 03 Dec 18
In April, one billion people tuned in to see Jessie J triumph on a Chinese reality show. On Saturday night she played to less than two thousand people at the National Stadium in Portobello. To say the 30-year-old pop grafter’s career has taken a slightly odd turn in recent years would be an understatement.
“It was an opportunity to bridge a gap between two cultures. For them to see a western performer and hear music some had never heard before and vice versa,” Jessie J (born, Jessica Cornish) explained after winning the Chinese competition.
The British press saw her three month stint in China a little differently, suggesting it may have been more about the money, money, money. "Jessie J will make MILLIONS after Chinese talent show win!" screamed one headline.
It’s been eight months since her win, and in that time she has released her fourth studio album, R.O.S.E. Despite being billed as a purposefully intimate Irish show, and the choice of venue being optional, it felt strange to see the Londoner play such a small room.
Cornish acknowledged the peculiar setting early on: “To see so many of you in this very interesting situation, I don’t mean any disrespect by this because I’m enjoying it, but it feels like a school assembly with a huge budget.
"I literally feel like my Mom and Dad are in the audience and my teachers are here to grade me. The way I can run on this stage, I have no boundaries. I can go from one side to the other in three leg steps,” she said.
Three costume changes, a sing-off with an enthusiastic fan, pleading with the audience not to sing along if unsure of song lyrics were show lulls. When Cornish strips it back and sings her slower tempo R&B tracks, she’s at her best.
On ‘Think About That,’ she unleashes her frustrations on ex-management: “All you disturb is my work and my patience, years of grinding, you took it and broke it. You wanna be famous, say it, you wanna be famous.”
She declares: “I can do it like a dude, grab my crotch, wear my hat down low like you,” on debut single ‘Do it Like a Dude.’ It’s still her best song to date.
There were some genuine heartfelt moments: “When I was nine years old I was diagnosed with a heart disease. I had a stroke at 17. I got told four years ago that I probably won’t be able to have children. But I will, I believe it. My health has become my biggest strength.”
“I wouldn’t be the woman I am today if I hadn’t been faced with the things I’ve been faced with. I don’t see them as weaknesses anymore, I believe that that’s my path and it’s the road I was meant to take,” she says before sinking into the soft R&B ballad, ‘Four Letter Word’ - a touching tribute to her future child.
Tracks ‘Bang Bang’ and ‘Domino’ close out the evening. They are her most popular songs - and they are solid. But they simply don’t compare to the more daring material earlier in her set. The evening was far from perfect, yet unlike many of her contemporaries, we should all be intrigued by what Jessie J’s career has to offer next.