‘Finally I’m where I wanna be’, Jess Glynne belts over the thumping house beats of album closer ‘Right Here’, and she sure is. In little over a year, Jess Glynne has gone from being a complete unknown to cementing not one, but FIVE number one singles during the promotion of her debut album. Suck that Cheryl Fernandez-Versini-Cole-Tweedy! Cheryl may have previously achieved this feat, but it took her five solid years to score those number ones.
I Cry When I Laugh is a mixture of emotions, which will come as no surprise given the album’s title. Centred around a concept of love and heartbreak, Glynne takes the listener on a whistle-stop look of the ups and downs of falling in love.
The Clean Bandit assisted ‘Real Love’ incidentally is about falling in love. ‘It’s in the way you love / And I can see that this is real’, Glynne sings amid a tumbling backdrop of house, dance and classical elements. There’s a sense of positivity here, though both acts show a rawer vulnerable side during the bridge towards the end of the track. This vulnerability is likewise highlighted on ‘Hold My Hand’, in which Glynne laments not wanting to be alone. ‘Don’t wanna know / That feeling when I’m all alone’, she sings emotionally over an uplifting blend of euphoria that is primed for the dance floor and a live show. The fans will lap this one up and chant along when she performs it on her autumn tour later this year.
It’s not all big beats and dancing feet, though. After recently revealing that she crafted over 100 songs before deciding upon her sound for her debut, there is a real sense that Glynne has tried, and largely succeeded, in avoiding being labelled a one-trick pony. A mixture of sounds make up her debut, from the house grooves of ‘Right Here’ to the R&B vibes of ‘Ain’t Got Far To Go’ and the piano led ballad that is ‘Take Me Home’.
‘Take Me Home’ shows Glynne at her most vulnerable. Her vocal is soulful, tender and packs heaps of emotional resonance. She’ll be grouped alongside Adele, Emili Sandé and Sam Smith naturally, but Glynne is worthy in her own right. Glynne’s heart is broke here: ‘Could you take care of a broken soul? / Or, will you take me home now?’, and she shows incredible range and control over her vocalist insight of her own soul. A sense of urgency encapsulates this track, producing a sound that is vastly different to what fans are accustomed to from her, but it is no less stunning.
But though her emotions change on every track, Glynne is steadfast in her admission that fame will not alter her. The percussion-leaden ‘You Can Find Me’ indeed finds Glynne being misunderstood about this. ‘Feeling like I’ve been misunderstood / Like I heard she’s gone to Hollywood / Couldn’t be more wrong if you tried’. Don’t you worry; she won’t break her promise. It’s this and ‘Right Here’, where Glynne isn’t singing solely about love. The Gorgon City polished production compliments Glynn’s powerhouse vocal so much that she ensures the album closes on an incredibly high high.
Elsewhere, Glynne tries her hand at hip hop. ‘Why Me’ incorporates jungle beats, clanging percussion, and a cinematic chorus layered over a raspy vocal. ‘It Ain’t Right’ likewise incorporates hip hop, amid thumping jazz as Glynne demands ‘Is it time I just let go? / Cause I can’t do this on my own / Cause it ain’t right.’ Her attitude is palpable here. This may just be her debut, but she has a real sense of who she is as an artist, and she has the attitude to match it. She knows her own mind and her own sound.
For a debut, I Cry When I Laugh largely succeeds. ‘Strawberry Fields’ and ‘Love Me’ are quite forgettable, and the Emili Sandé feature on ‘Saddest Vanilla’ isn’t needed, but every other track is as good as any she’s released. ‘Saddest Vanilla’ is perhaps the only moment on the album that doesn’t truly work, and that’s because of Sandé. Surprisingly, Glynne’s powerhouse vocal is ruined by the competing tones of Sandé. The chorus is a lyrical mess (‘This is the saddest vanilla that I’ve ever tasted’), though the verses make up for this substantially in which she produces some truly dark themes: ‘My heart here is freezing / As my tears fill my bowl.’ Without Sandé, and with a tighter chorus, this would have been a standout. Glynne simply doesn’t need a distracting competitor; she has enough gusto to carry this record alone.
The juxtaposing emotions of I Cry When I Laugh are never highlighted more than on album standout ‘Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’. Here she’s singing about heartbreak again, but she’s not letting it put her down, no. ‘I feel like I’ve been missing me / Was not who I’m supposed to be’, Glynne sings over dance and house beats producing a soulful insight into her very soul. Here she is emotional, but euphorically so. She may be crying when she’s laughing, but Jess Glynne has ensured that her fans won’t be crying alongside her. No, they’ll be singing along to what quite possible could be labelled the album of the year.