Jessie J's 'Burnin' Up' Indicates She's Trying but Can't Create Pop Magic

The new single, like many of her near-hits, nails the formula of pop well. But the British artist isn't quite getting it right.

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The curious case of Jessie J continues with her latest single release – today's "Burnin' Up," featuring 2 Chainz, a Max Martin beat, and a whole lot of what you'd expect. It's a fun-but-uninspiring bit of formula pop that never quite catches fire. In comparison to her last single, the truly killer "Bang Bang," it's quite a step down.

Trying to deduce why Jessie remains a consistent presence in American pop, never quite breaking out, is difficult. She's certainly had her share of bangers ("Bang Bang," "Domino"), her killer ballads ("Who You Are," "Nobody's Perfect") and mid-tempo jams ("Price Tag"). But only three of those songs have charted, only two in the top ten ("Price Tag" peaked at 23), and "Bang Bang" is as much Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj's victory as it is hers. That makes "Domino" her only independent hit stateside, and it's as unfortunately forgettable as she is.

If pop fans weren't so mercurial, you could imagine Jessie having a successful career so far. She can certainly sing – watch her spontaneous performance of "Who You Are" in a subway station for evidence – and she even balances her vocals with dance-friendly beats on most of her songs. And she is certainly trying! You can't say Jessie J hasn't been trying for years. Her whole brand is about trying.

"Burnin' Up" makes it clear Jessie has the recipe down – take one strong vocalist, add popular producer and rap verse, stir. But like any good cook, the recipe isn't enough. For a career to not only rise, but sing, you've got to have something special. This new music is fine, but it is absolutely nothing special.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.