Jessie J: Sweet Talker talks about her rise to fame and life after Bang Bang

By Melanie Leung

A few years ago, Jessie J was an unknown artist who just wanted to make the world dance. Now, she's pop royalty. The singer talks about her latest album, and life plans

By Melanie Leung |

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It's Jessie J's first time in Hong Kong. "I just saw the skinny buses, which freaked me out. They're really weird, like a cereal box," says the British singer, referring to the city's trams. "And there's a lot of things going on: there's sea, boats - it looks like The Hunger Games. And over here, this is New York," she says, gesturing out the window of her suite in Central's Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

If you don't know Jessie J from her 2011 hit Price Tag, (it's also the first song in the Pitch Perfect finale), you've probably heard her on Bang Bang, a joint single with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, and the first song released from her new album. One of summer's biggest hits, the song went platinum, shooting to the top of the iTunes chart after its release in July.

But that success didn't happen overnight. After her first record label went bankrupt in 2008, no label would sign her at home in Britain.

"It was all about money, which is why I wrote Price Tag … so I was like, cool, I'm going to America." A couple of weeks later, she had signed to a label.

And though she's recorded most of her songs in the US, Jessie J says she's still not well-known there. "I'm the new kid in school, and [Grande and Minaj] have held my hand and taken me to the cool kids. And I will feel forever grateful for that," she says.

Her third album, Sweet Talker, is due out tomorrow. But it isn't all glitzy Bang Bang-style numbers; there are also bare-bones songs of Jessie J singing, accompanied only by piano and guitar.

Her powerful voice is the envy of many, but she describes it as both a blessing and a curse. "I've got to be careful I don't do so much that I don't have a voice," she says. "I want people to recognise 'That's the girl that sang Bang Bang', not 'Who … is that?'"

In addition to how she sings, Jessie J is taking control of what she sings, aiming for honesty in her songs. "I'm definitely more confident to sing about - and live out - things that a 26-going-on-27 woman lives," she says. "If it's a sad song, it's really sad, and towards the end it's not [she sings] 'but I'm gonna be okay'. I'm sad, it's sad, and that's it."

With all the hype going around about Bang Bang, Jessie J says she is just trying to enjoy it, something she learned through mentoring the first two seasons of The Voice UK.

"Doing The Voice was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences for me. I was teaching people how to be an artist while [thinking to myself] 'you don't give yourself that advice'. I'm a control freak … and I have to realise that sometimes I have to just let go and enjoy it."

She's not trying to be the perfect role model, either, but is doing her best to live a well-rounded life. "I can't live for everyone because everybody lives differently. Even when I've messed up, I'm always someone living with my heart on my sleeve.

"I'm building my life as an artist, but also a mum-to-be, one day, and a good wife. I cook, and I wanna learn how to sew, and I'm doing a massage course."

Looks like the singer of Do It Like a Dude is starting to get in touch with her feminine side.