An assortment of guest appearances and solo singles in the early 2010s situated Jessie Ware in a line of sophisticated U.K. soul and left-field luminaries ranging from Sade Adu, Lisa Stansfield, and Caron Wheeler to Tracey Thorn and Róisín Murphy. The potential the singer and songwriter displayed on early recordings with the likes of SBTRKT, Sampha, and Joker reached fruition with Devotion (2012), her Top Ten U.K., Mercury Prize-nominated debut. By the end of the decade, she had two additional and distinctive full-lengths, Tough Love (2014) and Glasshouse (2017), that fared equally well with smoldering ballads favored over supple grooves. She has since issued her fourth LP, What's Your Pleasure? (2020), packed with disco-fied floor fillers. Amid all the success, Ware has remained a serial collaborator. Bobby Womack, Disclosure, HAIM, Nicki Minaj, and Ed Sheeran are among those who have sought her songwriting and/or vocal assistance.
Jessica Lois Ware was born and raised in London. She earned a degree in English literature from the University of Sussex. Her music career began in earnest with background vocalist roles, at first a part-time pursuit as she worked as a journalist. Strides were made with vocals for Man Like Me and Jack Peñate, and she took the lead on RackNRuin's "Soundclash," on which she revealed a voice powerful enough to be heard and felt over a frantic, breakbeat-driven production. By the end of 2010, Ware issued "Nervous," a collaboration with SBTRKT. The following year was even more productive. Her first release of 2011 was "Valentine," a sighing and swooning duet with vocalist/producer Sampha. It was followed by two appearances on SBTRKT's self-titled album, one of which — the garage/broken beat hybrid "Sanctuary" — also featured Sampha. "The Vision," the title track on dubstep producer Joker's 4AD debut, was the most impressive showcase for Ware yet. After she signed with the PMR label, she closed out the year with another solo single, "Strangest Feeling," produced by the Invisible's Dave Okumu.
Okumu and Julio Bashmore teamed with Ware for the singer's first release of 2012, the plush sophisti-pop single "Running" — her first placement on the U.K. pop chart — which led the way for Devotion that August. The LP debuted at number five in the U.K. and was short-listed for the 2012 Mercury Prize. In 2014, after extensive touring and recording, Ware released the singles "Tough Love" and the Ed Sheeran-assisted "Say You Love Me," both Top 40 U.K. pop hits. Tough Love the album followed that October with co-writing and production from a larger committee including Okumu, James Ford, and Benny Blanco, as well as Miguel, Nineteen85, Jimmy Napes, and Emile Haynie. The set reached number nine in the U.K. During the next couple years, Ware co-wrote and appeared on Nicki Minaj's "The Crying Game," and showed more versatility when she appeared on We Love Disney (with a version of "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes") and the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. She made a full return in October 2017 with album three, Glasshouse. The number seven U.K. hit continued Ware's work with Okumu and Blanco and added the high-profile likes of Pop Wansel, Ryan Tedder, and Cashmere Cat to the mix.
When the 2010s drew to a close, Ware's deep secondary discography as a featured artist and co-writer also contained recordings with Bobby Womack ("Love Is Gonna Lift You Up"), Disclosure ("Confess to Me"), Mayer Hawthorne ("Her Favorite Song"), HAIM ("Days Gone By"), and Ed Sheeran ("New Man"). Additionally, she had made moves toward the release of her fourth album with the loved-up, dancefloor-aimed singles "Overtime," "Adore You," and "Mirage (Don't Stop)," the first and last of which maintained her creative partnership with James Ford. The energy carried into the majority of What's Your Pleasure?, issued in June 2020. ~ Andy Kellman