Jessie Ware’s debut LP Devotion worked so well thanks to that powerhouse voice, but her bold stretching of the pop time-space continuum provided the true wow factor. The sly fusion of retro R&B, angular guitar, and production that winks at today’s dubby hip-hop produces an apparent timelessness. Few artists can produce that feeling consistently, and Ware confidently opens herself up to scrutiny with her five track EP, If You’re Never Gonna Move, challenging every listener (not to mention Big Pun) to find faults in her methods.
To get to the chase with Ware’s self-confident (even hubristic) tendencies, we’ll have to go back to a time at which the title track of this EP was released on Devotion under the name “110%”. The Julio Bashmore-produced track samples a line from Big Pun’s “Dream Shatterer”, specifically an altered loop of the deceased rapper croaking “carvin’ my initials on your forehead.” The 10 percent increase in the title of Ware’s version from Pun’s famous “100%”? “I thought I could top it,” she shrugged, in an interview with Bilboard. Ware’s ultra-polished cut led the Big Pun estate to bring a sample clearance dispute to her doorstep.
No wilting flower, instead of shelving the intended U.S. release of a 110% EP, Ware decided to tweak the tune into “If You’re Never Gonna Move”. The track remains all but unchanged, save for altering that loop into a similar voice laying down the line “coming on a mission like a warhead.” The sugar rush dance-floor gem loses none of its mystic energy, the bubbling synth bass and quicksilver percussion driving things forward.
Beyond that revision, the EP includes a remix of the title track, a cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love”, and two tracks cut straight from Devotion. The “Two Inch Punch Remix” languishes in stuttered plinks and zenith swoons, while the cover of the 1978 soul cut melds more fluidly into Ware’s trademark sound, cold synth percussion and twinkling high-end enhancing the sultry swoon. In the end, though, the spare set acts more as a document of Ware’s fearless intentions at pop stardom.
Essential Tracks: “If You’re Never Gonna Move”