To say that 2020 has been a banger year for music would be an understatement. We are—happily—drowning in stellar new records from some of today’s biggest pop stars, including Lady Gaga, Dua Lipa, The Chicks, and Taylor Swift. But one new release stands out as a surprise soundtrack of summer frontrunner: Jessie Ware’s latest album, What’s Your Pleasure?, a sexy sonic groove fest full of disco-inspired, dance-ready bops. It’s a record that begs to be played in a crowded gay bar or a hopping pool party (something that has yet to happen—thanks, COVID-19!).
The British songstress recently called up NewNowNext to talk about the making of What’s Your Pleasure?, her wig-tastic new music video, and why she’s still waiting for that call from RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.
The other weekend, I went to my first gay bar in months, and there was a disco ball spinning and your album was playing. And it just felt so right.
That’s all I’ve ever wanted in the world! That’s amazing!
So are you aware that you’ve made the perfect gay bar soundtrack?
I had an inkling that it could go off there. Look, I have the most incredible fans, and the majority probably are the gay community. The loyalty they’ve shown me, I felt like it was only right to give them this record, sort of energy and musicality. That’s what I wanted to do. Honestly, that was the highest honor and accolade, to be able to be playing in a Brooklyn gay bar.
Well, for me and all my gay friends, it is the soundtrack of summer.
Thank you so much.
When I’m listening to the album, I hear you serving Róisín Murphy, some Goldfrapp—was that your intention going into the album or did it kind of morph during recording?
I mean, Róisín Murphy is one of the queens of dance music, especially British dance music. I love her production, her voice. So yeah, songs of hers, like “Overpowered,” are seminal, brilliant songs. Róisín is an influence to me, particularly on a song like “Spotlight.”
You release What’s Your Pleasure?, Sophie-Ellis Bextor is doing her kitchen discos, Kylie just put our her new song. Why do you think disco’s having a moment right now?
Everyone keeps asking me this and I have no idea. I think because it’s warm, it’s generous, it’s sophisticated, and I think it’s probably what the world needs right now, a bit of disco and soul. All those reasons. But I have no idea how me, Gaga, Dua, and Kylie decided to do a similar thing when we’ve never been in the same room at the same time together.
I’ve been loving all of your music videos. You’re going to have a complete visual album soon. Was that the plan?
That was the intention. When we realized it was going to be a different kind of promotion, I asked the label if they’d get me a really small budget for visuals. So we got creative. We worked with really great up-and-coming directors. So for me, that’s been a really wonderful thing, to be able to do that. I wouldn’t have necessarily been allowed to do if it hadn’t been for COVID. It’s an incredibly collaborative, creative, exciting and cozy, honoring the world and pictures that I want to create. The new video is fire, and it’s very ’90s Madonna. I’m wearing latex, come on!
There’s a lot of hair in your new video. Is that a wig?
It’s a lot of wig. It is a hair moment, as they say. My wonderful gay manager wanted a big hair moment. He’d been wanting this for a very long time. So we gave it to him, and my hairstylist Pat Wilson prepped the babies five days before. They’d be sitting, waiting, raring to go. And it was so heavy! It was like another person on my head.
Wigs are so heavy and hot. I don’t know how drag queens wear multiple at one time.
Oh my God. Exactly! It was kind of the hardest part of the day for me. I feel like I need to do a whole video just with the wig just to honor this wig because honest to God, it was so fun.
Well, you should definitely donate it to a drag queen in need after you’re done with it.
[Laughs] That’s a really good idea!
It’s such a tight album. Are there any tracks that didn’t make the cut?
Loads. Right up until the end, I probably had like three more albums worth. That was a really great situation to be in, don’t get me wrong. But it’s hard to pick them. Some of these, like the original songs that we did right at the beginning of our sessions, just stood the test of time. You know, I had a baby during all of this and still, those songs stood out. And so that was really reassuring. So yeah, I’ve got plenty more. I kind of attempted to like do a little B-sides thing, but there’s a reason they aren’t on the record. You know what I mean?
That was going to be my next question: Not to be greedy, but do you see a deluxe edition coming out or any more tracks from this era?
I think this [album] has definitely done pretty well for me. And I felt like people would really enjoy a deluxe version. So I feel like there probably will be one. And I want to get back into the studio and start writing the next record. I will probably start that in September. So I mean, you never know. By the time we get to America, I may have two albums worth of material for you to play. Equally, I think there’s a freedom with me putting the music out. And even if it’s not a full album yet, just being able to give people more music. I don’t want to go away for two years. Like, I don’t need to do that. It’s about giving people music.
Switching gears now, I wanted to ask about your podcast [Table Manners], which I love. You’ve had so many great guests, but who has been one of your favorites?
Alan Carr. Go and listen to the Alan Carr episode, you will not stop laughing. He is hysterical. So that was really fun.
He’s a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race U.K.—he should be able to get you on the next season!
Right? I’m slightly perplexed why I haven’t been invited on Drag Race. Like, I am such a big fan and I’m waiting for that fucking call. No, more than that, I don’t want to just be a judge: I want to be a frigging synching sing-offs bit [lip-sync for your life]. That’s what I want. The queens either have to do “Save a Kiss” or “Spotlight” or “What’s Your Pleasure.” I mean, imagine! That would be incredible!
Well, it’s out in the universe now, so we’re going to make it happen.
Yeah, please, please, please!
What’s Your Pleasure? is out now.