It feels like Jess Glynne has been around for years. In reality, the 25-year-old was a complete unknown until her name popped up on Clean Bandit’s infectious Number 1 single Rather Be at the beginning of last year. She quickly followed that up by hitting the top spot again with her contribution to Route 94’s My Love – the song that actually brought her to the attention of Clean Bandit in the first place.
Since then everything that Glynne has touched has turned to gold. Any fears that she would be unable to hold her own as a lead artist were casually brushed aside with her second solo single, Hold My Hand, which earned her another number one at the beginning of this year. Her reputation was further enhanced when her collaboration with Tinie Tempah, Not Letting Go, saw the Number 1 spot surrender to her sultry vocal once again.
On the back of such success, it seems inevitable that her debut LP, I Cry When I Laugh, would follow suit, especially considering its release was preceded by her record-equalling fifth Number 1 with Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself. However, unlike the remarkably consistent quality of her singles, Glynne’s first album is a much more mixed affair that suffers from being overlong and unfocused.
Kicking off with a rather throwaway introductory track (Strawberry Fields), I Cry When I Laugh attempts to weave Glynne’s singles with the rest of the rather lengthy 20-track deluxe version of the record. Understandably, the songs tend to lean on her effortlessly powerful vocal – as demonstrated by the almost gospel-esque Gave Me Something – yet beyond that there appears to be a lack of musical direction.
The first singles to make an appearance, Hold My Hand and second Clean Bandit collaboration Real Love, make a suitable pairing, with their sweet, uplifting pop beats providing a perfect accompaniment to Glynne’s vocals. The same is true of the irresistibly catchy single Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself, which relies simply on a driving clapped beat and a jaunty piano riff.
Yet around the standout singles, tracks such as Ain’t Got Far To Go and You Can Find Me fall a bit flat and struggle to move out of filler territory, even though they manage to continue the uplifting quality of her chart-topping successes. When Glynne does try to change things up and demonstrate her melancholic side, there is evidence that she has the ability to fill the void left by Adele – who, it must be said, she does sound a lot like.
Take Me Home is one such example of Glynne attempting a more classic ballad and pulling it off with ease, while the acoustic version of My Love really hammers home just how mesmerisingly beautiful her voice is. But between the punchy singles like Right Here – yet another collaboration with Clean Bandit – and the poignant ballads, there are a number of so-so tracks like the drippy Saddest Vanilla (featuring Emeli Sandé) and the dull Love Me, which is just mind-numbingly repetitive.
As a result, I Cry When I Laugh never really manages to become more than just a collection of singles. Admittedly, the singles are all of the highest quality – and it is easy to see why they have sold on such a large scale – but there is no getting away from the fact that the album as a whole is rather underwhelming. It is great as something to dip in and out of, but I Cry When I Laugh is proof that Glynne is far from the finished article.