In the short time it took Lady Sovereign to release her full-length debut, Public Warning, the blog buzz surrounding her previous EPs—and the hot-for-a-minute grime scene that birthed them—died down considerably. Unimpressive sales and lukewarm reviews got the MC dropped from her much-touted deal with Def Jam, seemingly cementing her flash-in-the-pan status. Her follow-up, Jigsaw, makes some noble efforts toward reinvention, though it ultimately feels as disposable as its predecessor.
Jigsaw takes some steps away from the grime sound, though a solid half of the album is still dedicated to the hiccupy, guttural style. Tracks like “Bang Bang,” “Pennies,” and “I Got You Dancing” do right by the genre’s frenetic dance energy, though there’s little to distinguish them from the tracks that flared and flamed out so quickly three years ago. More interesting—though more intermittently successful—are Lady Sovereign’s forays into singing, with results reminiscent of another cheeky Brit, Lily Allen. “Singing” is perhaps generous, but to Sov’s credit, she seems to recognize her limitations and sticks to simple sing-speak hooks rather than going crazy with the AutoTune. (Still, the oh-so-flat “Guitar” could have benefited from a little knob-twiddling.) The Cure-sampling “So Human” is the album’s high point, combining a newfound introspective slant with Sovereign’s bouncy flow and cynical sense of humor.
That sense of humor is still her strongest asset, and Jigsaw fits in plenty of zingers, especially on “Student Union,” a goofy dis of college bars. Yet sometimes the 23-year-old’s limited worldview becomes a little too apparent—as in a verse about Facebook—and the pitch-shifted tomfoolery of “Food Play” crosses the line into novelty. It all combines into a sophomore effort that distinguishes itself on occasion, but doesn’t portend Sov’s second coming.