Jessie J – ‘Domino’

Song: ‘Domino’
Artist: Jessie J
US chart peak: 6
Release date: August 29, 2011
Writers: Claude Kelly, Henry Walter, Jessica Cornish, Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin
Producers: Dr Luke, Cirkut
Quintessential Max moment: I really hope he came up with “I’m feeling sexy and free” as an opening line
Video synopsis: Morticia Adams’ more needy sister tries out some new lycra onesies

Ah Jessie J. With your menacing bob, empathy for those who have lost limbs and constant chat about being revered as one of the greatest vocalists of all time, you really do make it hard to love you. And yet, behind the ‘look at me, don’t look at me’, patronising self-help platitudes there’s actually a really promising pop star lost in there somewhere. It’s hard to imagine now, but between 2010 and 2012, Jessica Ellen Cornish was properly, multi-million-selling artist huge. ‘Price Tag’ had sold shitloads around the world, grazing the US Top 20, and she’d made a future TV talent show staple in the shape of empowerment ballad ‘Who You Are’.

The album of the same name had also done well enough to earn a ‘repack’ – basically nine months after its initial release three new songs were added just in time for Christmas – and the lead single was the smilie-tastic, “sexy and free” ‘Domino’. Another UK Number 1, it also became her first US Top Ten, peaking at Number 6. More importantly, music licensing company PPL named it the song with the most plays on radio and in public places in the UK in 2012, so update your records accordingly.

Its success is hardly surprising given it was released in the middle of Katy Perry’s Max Martin and Dr Luke-assisted chart-busting ‘Teenage Dream’ era, with ‘Domino’’s sky-scraping chorus almost sounding like a megamix of all those album’s 48 hits (specifically ‘Last Friday Night’). With the kind of foresight she’s renowned for, Jessie didn’t exactly help matters when she was interviewed about it, telling MTV: “People have heard ‘Domino’ and said, ‘It’s nothing like you.’” Well, no, exactly, it sounds like Katy Perry, but do go on. “But I’m like, ‘Well, the album’s really eclectic anyway, and I never go into the studio and say, ‘I wanna do another song that’s like ‘Price Tag’ or another song like ‘Do It Like A Dude’”.

Anyway, it’s actually a perfect fit for Jessie’s voice (“one of the greatest singers in America” lest we forget), which is elastic enough to deal with the melodic shifts that take place as the staccato verses steadily soar through the pre-chorus (“ooh, ooh, ooh, oooh”) into that big lift off moment of the chorus itself. She’s also seriousface enough with it all to handle the convoluted similes that seem at times to almost work against the song itself. With production handled by Dr Luke and regular collaborator Cirkut, it has that same fusion of spindly rock riffs and Hoover-esque synth-pop that had to come to define Luke’s work at that time, making its chart success almost a scientific certainty as opposed to a proper breakthrough for J (she’d have one more US hit with ‘Bang Bang’ in the summer of 2014, but that had more to do with the collaborators then her).

One of five co-writers on the song it’s hard to tell exactly what Max’s main role will have been, but – as with the majority of his work – it could be as straightforward as tailoring the song towards Jessie J’s voice, which fits the whole thing like a glove.

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