Soul and funk singer Sharon Jones was given her reprieve later in life than most powerhouse musicians. She hung up her uniform as a corrections officer in only the late-1990s despite various successes providing backing vocals for other artists. Now at 57 years old, Jones is five studio albums deep into a career that has helped resurrect an entire genre. That fifth album, Give The People What They Want, is officially out on January 14th.
After a battle with cancer unexpectedly delayed the album’s originally set 2013 release, Jones is back at the helm of her ensemble, Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. The band recently released the video to their newest single, “Stranger to My Happiness” in anticipation of the album’s release.
Give The People What They Want is aptly named and oddly prophetic in not just title, but content as well. Jones is raw, and set against the polished Dap-Kings’ horns, she once again blends contradictory qualities, the hard and the soft embracing and sobering listeners.
On previous albums, Jones has shared her sorrow and strife, to which listeners could relate and take solace in — you’ve got problems, but Sharon knows anguish like no other. However, on Give the People What They Want, Jones reveals that her sorrows can be opportunities rather than roadblocks. Her aggressive delivery and diction blister as a triumph over tumult and heartbreak. “Now I See” and “Retreat” are resolute displays of mind over matter.
I am a huge fan of 2010’s I Learned the Hard Way — in fact, it’s sitting in my record player as we speak — but it’s a heavy album, a slog sometimes best suited for an intimate evening spent between you and a glass (or three) of red wine. Give The People What They Want, on the other hand, is a performance record. I guess it’s a good thing, then, that Jones’ schedule for 2014 has her busier than Eliot Spitzer in a hot tub full of feet.
I first caught Jones live at Jazz Fest a couple years back, and if you’ve ever seen her live, you know that she’s a born performer. We can only hope it’s not too much too soon for the recovering soul singer, as her stint out of the spotlight was surprisingly short. But if she’s feeling up to it, Give The People What They Want could be her best medicine yet.
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