The early 2020s have brought along a trend of artists incorporating disco influence into their mainstream pop music. But Jessie Ware’s new album, That! Feels Good!, isn’t just influenced by disco music; it is full-fledged, pure disco music. Ware’s take on disco is unequivocally true to the sound that lit up ‘70s dance floors, but it’s also fresh, revitalized, and current.
The title track, backed by a groovy bassline and perfectly placed swells of brass, would likely get a stamp of approval from Prince. Ware sings, “That feels good! Do it again!” over and over—maybe in reference to dancing, maybe in reference to sex, and most likely in reference to both—introducing the project’s themes of movement and pleasure.
Songs like “Free Yourself” and “Pearls” are over-the-top and glamorous, with dazzling horns, invigorating rhythms, and melodies that are bound to be stuck in your head for days. What really sells these songs, though, is Ware herself. Her confidence and self-assurance, along with her ravishing vocals and fluctuating timbre, give these tracks their main strength.
“Hello Love” is a more laid-back, casual moment in the record’s progression, with refined lyrics that portray the feeling of having a crush. It’s a nice breather with a mellifluous melody and rich orchestral accompaniment. The pace picks back up on the following track, “Begin Again,” with delivery and chords that strongly resemble Yebba’s distinct style, despite being in a totally different genre.
Like the title track, “Beautiful People” relies on groovy percussion and horn sections, and holds a somewhat cliche message: “Beautiful people are everywhere, everywhere.” The writing throughout the album is not astonishing, but for the most part, these plain and fun lyrics work with the overarching musical atmosphere because nothing on this record takes itself too seriously.
In the last few tracks of the album, the opening songs’ punchy flare slightly falters. “Freak Me Now” is one of the record’s most explicitly sexual moments, as implied by the title, with a more techno feel than the rest of the album. It’s lively and exciting, but when compared to songs that fully commit to sugary dance-pop, it’s clear that Ware’s vocals suit dance-floor disco better.
The slow-moving “Lightning” is the most substandard track, produced with vocal filters and electronic beats that are far more modern than any other instrumentation on the record, severing the listener from Ware’s disco world. And even outside the context of the record, the song is not particularly enjoyable in the first place, with bland production and uninteresting melodies that fail to provide any reason to come back to it.
The project concludes with “These Lips,” a glittering-yet-soft conclusion completed with sensual whispers, extravagant horns, and rich harmonies. She seductively sings, “These lips are satisfaction, they set off chain reactions / Send a signal to the stars and tell them where we are is where we wanna be,” ending the album on just the right note.
It doesn’t come without a few flaws, but as a whole, Jessie Ware’s take on disco on her newest album is thoughtful, unique, confident, and most of all: fun. Listening and dancing along to That! Feels Good! definitely feels good.