Concert Review: Jessie J at the Dubai World Cup

Jessie J performs at the conclusion of the Dubai World Cup on March 26, 2011 (photo by Tom Roth)

On March 26th, Tom Roth covered the the world’s largest horse race, the Dubai World Cup, for the USD Vista. Jessie J’s performance was the culmination of the race day events.

As a man, there are certain things I am not supposed to appreciate. Purses, nail polish, People magazine, and any movie starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Jessie J is also on that list. She typifies all that audiophiles detest about pop music. She came out of nowhere and suddenly has a chart-topping single with a big-name guest appearance. She is on an international tour. She was featured on Saturday Night Live just four weeks after the release of her first single. All of this before her debut album was even released. In sum, she is the archetype of Corporate Pop Music.

So why do I have three of her songs bookmarked on my web browser?

I chalk it up to the “guilty pleasure” factor. Everyone, regardless of musical preference, has those songs hidden away in his or her collection. They are seldom mentioned but often enjoyed, usually through the safety of headphones so as not to attract attention to one’s peculiar musical taste. I admit, Jojo, Kelly Clarkson, and at least three one-and-done “Jerk” artists have made it into my library and after seeing Jessie J perform at the Dubai World Cup, I can confidently say that she has become my newest guilty pleasure.

I take comfort in the fact that Jessie’s performance had the same effect on everyone in attendance. During her set, even the stuffiest of race-goers could be found jumping in time and singing the chorus to a catchy pop-tune they were hearing for the first time in their lives.

When she first pranced out on stage following the conclusion of the day’s races, Jessie was wearing a stylish get-up that screamed “modern pop”. Bangles jangling and outfit billowing, she lightheartedly chatted at the crowd as a performer who hasn’t yet been jaded by the business of touring and performing might do. I took a mental note: extra points for charisma.

As the gargantuan LCD behind Jessie lit up with swirling graphics and shimmering calligraphic styles that dispelled any doubt as to who was performing, she sang her way through one track after another off of her forthcoming album, Who You Are.


She what? She sang? Yes, indeed. She sang every note. In today’s world of lip-syncing and cop-out performances (the court will now summon Sean Kingston) I was flabbergasted to hear that Jessie J actually has some pipes. The first comparison that comes to mind is Christina Aguilera. If Jessie J weren’t British, she’d have done well with “X-tina” and friends in the Mickey Mouse Club. Her up-beat pop sound certainly fits the mould nicely.

Between tracks, Jessie petitioned the technicians to light up the crowd. “I want to see you guys!” or “Turn up the lights! I’m scared of the dark!” The crowd laughed. However, the reaction would surely have been different had they known Jessie is susceptible to anxiety attacks and had to duck-out of a show in 2010 when she was forced to perform on a blacked-out stage. Turns out her petitions for more light were sincere.

While Jessie may currently have the number one hit in the UK, her show was unpretentious. For starters, she was the only performer. One microphone on stage says a lot about an artist, even if the rhythm track coming through the speakers is pre-recorded. Her 45 minute set went by quickly and as the who’s-who of Dubai nodded and swayed in their showy dresses and immaculate suits, the chorus of “Price Tag” reverberated through the night air: “It’s not about the money, money, money”. Wrong crowd, Jessie. In Dubai, it is all about the money, money, money.

Jessie kept things short and sweet. Her repertoire is limited (only thirteen tracks on her album) and she performed most of them in a single, 45 minute set. Less to remember, more to retain, is my theory. As I walked away, her catchy tunes stuck in my head the entire ride home. Unsurprising. After all, she is the song-writer responsible for Party in the USA” and we all know how easily that embeds itself in your brain. Guilty pleasure, anyone?

– by Tom “Wonderboy” Roth