When Jessie J first moved to LA from the U.K. more than a decade ago, she was living off Cheetos, doing three studio sessions a day, and wondering where her next check might come from. But through a combination of writing songs for other artists and releasing her years-in-the-making debut album in early 2011, she launched her career as the music star we know today.
And it all truly started with Who You Are, Jessie’s very first album, which celebrated its 10-year anniversary on Sunday. The project, which peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, spawned J’s breakout song “Price Tag,” her debut U.K. single “Do It Like a Dude” and her first Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit “Domino.”
For the 10-year anniversary, Jessie J got on a video call with the Billboard Pop Shop Podcast to talk all about the making of the album, scoring her first (and second) No. 1 hits in her native U.K., and a familiar face that popped up in her early music videos.
Listen to the podcast below:
She also has some great stories about writing “Do It Like a Dude” with Rihanna in mind but keeping the aggressive anthem for her first U.K. single instead (“I just remember seeing the complete split of ‘I love her’/’I hate her’ [when it debuted] … I loved the extremity”) and writing what would become one of Miley Cyrus’ biggest hits. “‘Party in the USA’ put my foot in the door as a credible artist that can write songs, and that I will always be grateful for,” she said, even singing a few of the original lyrics that were about Jessie’s move from U.K. to the U.S. instead of Miley’s move from Nashville to LA.
“When Biden was elected, it was played everywhere,” Jessie added of the 2009 hit. “To be associated with such a historic moment, even now, literally 13, 12 years on, it’s just so magical. I’m so grateful for Miley and what she did for that song and what it did for me. It paid my rent. She basically kept me afloat when it was a tough time and I was a struggling artist that just wanted to do my thing.”
(Speaking of 12 years ago, watch Jessie do a virtual duet with her younger self on the song “Mamma Knows Best,” posted Sunday to celebrate the anniversary.)
In the end, Jessie J is happy she made such a big splash out of the gate, but she thinks she has a lot left to prove. “I love that people still call me underrated,” she said. “I don’t need to be the biggest thing in the room. I want to be the truest thing and the realest.
“When I look back at it now, there are so many moments where I just want to give myself a hug, when I doubted myself. … Now I’m just living my best life.”
Part of that best life: Jessie J dropped some hints about the music she has coming next. Her yet-untitled fifth album is set to be executive-produced by Ryan Tedder — and he even sent her a video message during the interview. “There’s a lot of honesty in there, because obviously I’ve lived a lot of life that people want to know about,” Jessie says about what she’s singing about on her next album, adding that her inner-circle keeps telling her these songs sound like they belong in a movie.
“I’ve always been controversial without being offensive,” she said about the tone of the music. “I like to stand on the edge but not fall off. I like to bleed out and make people stand in the middle of their f—ing sh–, good and bad, as I do that for myself.”
Now she’s ready to see if her new music can make just as big of a splash as Who You Are did 10 years ago. “The challenge of beating that is the hardest thing. And I haven’t. ‘Bang Bang’ nearly got there,” she says of her team-up with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj for her third album in 2014. But she thinks her new stuff has what it takes: “‘I can hang out with you at a party,’ these songs can say to the old songs.”
While she doesn’t have a specific timetable for the release, she expects we’ll hear a taste before the fall, teasing, “These songs are not for a turtleneck, you know what I’m saying?” she laughs.
Also on the show, we’ve got chart news about how Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album spends a seventh week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, claiming a unique distinction among country albums on the chart, and how Chris Brown and Young Thug’s “Go Crazy” jumps to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, giving Brown his highest-charting hit since 2008.
The Billboard Pop Shop Podcast is your one-stop shop for all things pop on Billboard’s weekly charts. You can always count on a lively discussion about the latest pop news, fun chart stats and stories, new music, and guest interviews with music stars and folks from the world of pop. Casual pop fans and chart junkies can hear Billboard’s deputy editor, digital, Katie Atkinson and senior director of Billboard charts Keith Caulfield every week on the podcast, which can be streamed on Billboard.com or downloaded in Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast provider. (Click here to listen to the previous edition of the show on Billboard.com.)