British belter Jess Glynne introduced herself to American audiences in 2014 with “Rather Be,” an effervescent slice-of-love giggle that showed off her strong vocals and ability to surrender to pure bliss. On her second full-length, she’s once again bridging the gap between bouncy pop-EDM and feisty soul, shaking off the malaise that’s struck too many of her playlisted peers in a way that lets Glynne serve as a one-woman rooting crew for herself and, by extension, anyone in need of a peppy pick-me-up.
Glynne has a husky, yet supple voice marked by a restless vibrato, and she powers it with the sort of panache that would make even the most in-touch feelings-haver blush. She’s most in her element on love songs that lean into classic R&B ideas: “All I Am” is an ebullient declaration that recalls her debut’s bouncy “Hold My Hand,” with the added the head-rush from a bit of liquid courage (“I’m breaking my silence/’cos I’ve had a few” prefaces her lovelorn declaration on the chorus); “123” is brassy and swaggering, Glynne’s devotionals given added oomph by horn blasts and street-corner choirs. “Rollin'” switches things up a bit; its disco groove gives Glynne a chance to strap on her skates and glide away from a lover who’s so not up to snuff he causes her to drop more than one f-bomb (!).
The outlier here is “Thursday,” a self-affirmation anthem that gently blooms from acoustic balladry into starlit pop anthem. If it recalls the more heartstring-plucking work of Ed Sheeran, that’s no accident: The two redheads collaborated on the track along with superproducer Steve Mac (who also worked on Sheeran’s monster hit “Shape of You”). In the wrong hands, “Thursday” could be disastrous, but Glynne’s good vibes help flip the gazing-males script written by inner-beauty anthems like “What Makes You Beautiful,” with Glynne’s voice growing into assuredness as the self-affirmations pile up high enough to give even the most hard-hearted listener a bit of a boost.