When Sharon Jones was diagnosed with cancer last summer it was a no-brainer that her professional life would take a backseat to her health. It’s one thing to be a frontwoman, but to carry the weight of mortality on your shoulders is enough to bring anybody to their knees. As loyal fans know, however, Sharon Jones is not any old body. She met her diagnosis with fearless optimism and went public with her battle, even going as far as to shoot a video after loosing all her hair to chemotherapy.
Yet to nurture a more pragmatic perspective, it’s important not to misconstrue passion and the ability to persevere as the primary ingredients for success. Give the People What They Want, her fifth studio album, is exactly what the title implies – a forthcoming, uncensored account of all the experiences that make Sharon Jones an inspiration.
Her first single “Retreat!,” which opens the album, sets a familiar tone, playing to the notion that although she’s no stranger to heartache, she’s by no means a victim. Moreover, it’s her who ends up administering most of the pain: [LISTEN]
The ability to turn vulnerability into strength is a testament to her feistiness, which shines bright from beginning to end. “You’ll Be Lonely” is ensconced in empowerment and the Dap-Kings punctuate her lyrics with just the right amount of pop. It’s classic Sharon Jones: [LISTEN]
Though what makes Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings great is also the thing that hinders them the most: Their signature sound relies heavily on the Doo-Wop and Motown. And the truth is they’re capable of so much more. When the instrumentation becomes predictable it drowns out the more poignant moments, leaving songs like “People Don’t Get What They Deserve” gasping for air: [LISTEN]
At 10 songs, Give The People What They Want plays out more like a short film than a full-length feature – snapshots when at this point a detailed portrait would be more preferable. How much of Sharon’s illness had to do with it is anybody’s guess, but it would be foolish to think that it didn’t factor in one way or another.
Still it’s no less entertaining, just a lateral move instead of a progressive one. Perhaps now, if anything, would be a good time for everyone to stop, catch their collective breath and worry less about what the people want and more about what Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings need.