The soft glamor of Jessie Ware’s What’s Your Pleasure? radiates with the persistence of a sparkling disco ball in a foggy club. It’s melancholic luxury, like heavy drops of mascara-stained tears. It is also, undeniably, the British pop star’s best album yet: a sumptuous tribute to both peak- and post-disco as well as the black, brown and LGBTQ people the genre resonated with most deeply.
On Pleasure, the best songs sound like the final breath of euphoria before the harsh glow of the bar’s fluorescent lights signal the end of the night. It’s no wonder Ware cited Fern Kinney’s “Love Me Tonight” as a major influence on her record in an interview with Gay Times. “Apparently during the AIDS epidemic in New York, this would be the closing song they’d play [at clubs],” she said. “It’s such a beautiful song. So many people were losing their loved ones and friends and it became really significant.”
Songs like dreamy opener “Spotlight,” hypnotic “Adore You” and final slow jam “Remember Where You Are” have a romantic finality to them, like that last chance kiss at 3:45 a.m. amongst a waning mass of bodies. The rest of the album moves bumps and grinds like a late night downtown: the ambient traffic noise in the background of “Ooh La La” makes you feel like your strutting like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Songs like “Soul Control,” “Save a Kiss,” “Read My Lips” and the title track are glittering romps that pull from dance floor greats like Donna Summer, Blondie and Klymaxx. Ware’s coy giggle at the top of “Read My Lips” carries the same flirtatious swagger of Whitney Houston’s opening dialogue on “So Emotional.”
Across the whole album, Ware’s voice fills each moment with incredibly lustful longing. It feels timeless more in its emotionality and drama than even in the sound itself, which stays firmly strapped to a bygone era. Her nostalgia feels like a proper tribute, mostly because it digs so deep to the core. “Last night we danced and I thought you were saving my life,” she sings on the resplendent “Mirage (Don’t Stop).” With one line, Ware grasps the genre’s history in near totality. It’s a triumphant sun rising to greet a whole new era of disco, and what a pleasure it is to meet it.