Jessica Mauboy has experienced a slightly uneasy return to the Australian pop psyche since coming home from the United States armed with a bagful of slick R&B/pop songs for her latest album. Though the Aussie public lapped up the LP’s second single ‘Saturday Night’, they seemingly weren’t quite so enamoured with its predecessor – the album’s title track ‘Get ‘Em Girls’.
Now onto single No.3, we plonked on the couch with Jess and talked designer footwear, a forthcoming repackage of her latest album and being chained to a chair. But we kicked off by asking her why she thought the lead single just didn’t connect with her normally adoring public.
“It wasn’t meant to be ‘the one’ that would change everything,” she admits. “There was just a little part of me that wanted to show what I could do. It’s a style of music that I’ve fallen in love with. I hoped it would have done a bit better. It was unexpected, but I think I’ve put myself in that position where anything can happen and I’ll just go with the flow. So when I was writing the album, that’s where my headspace was.”
However, despite the single limping into the Aussie top 20 (it peaked at a disappointing No.19), Jess remains full of praise for her co-star on the track – Snoop Dogg.
“He is a real gentleman,” she says. “He lives such a crazy life… but he was really cool. He loves the song. I just remember him saying ‘we’re gonna make this number one’. I’m sure he was on something.” She laughs.
“I know I was excited inside, but I felt that it was an honour working with him. I was just enjoying the ride. I guess I got to see him with his people and how he worked. I thank him for wanting to be a part of my music and my album.”
Jess’s follow-up single was the Ludacris-featuring ‘Saturday Night’. Though not a No.1 hit, the single made it into the top ten and has gone on to clock double platinum sales, making it her most commercially successful single since her debut ‘Running Back’. She reveals a sense of relief that it succeeded where its predecessor had failed.
“I tried to forget everything that had happened with ‘Get Em Girls’,” she concedes. “And I think that ‘Saturday Night’ was THE single. It didn’t explode, but it happened gradually. I’m very proud of it and I’m really glad that we got it up to that level.
“It was that ‘getting ready’ kind of song. Your anthem song when you’re about to go out and you’re just screaming to get out the door. I really wanted that type of song for the album.”
“They have not. But I must say I am a fan of Jimmy Choo shoes,” she smirks wryly. “But I wasn’t looking for anything like that. I wanted things to be a little bit tongue in cheek. I thought that would be really fun. Just to kind of give it a little added flavour.”
That’s not to say Jess has her eye solely on one designer brand of footwear. Oh no. She’s also got her eye on a pair or two from Prada.
“They are very beautiful,” she says. “We did a photo shoot in L.A. for a few days. I saw Prada heels and asked for them for the shoot. We didn’t end up getting them in the photo shoot, but I ended up buying them and taking them home.”
The latest single to be lifted from ‘Get ‘Em Girls’ is one of our personal favourites – the Jay Sean duet ‘What Happened To Us’. And it soon becomes apparent that the track holds a special place in Jess’s heart too.
“It’s definitely one of my favourites. I shouldn’t say that I have favourites, but this was a special song – and one that I really contributed to, along with Billy Steinberg who wrote ‘Like A Virgin’ for Madonna among many other famous hits.” (Billy also co-penned ‘Eternal Flame’ for The Bangles, ‘So Emotional’ for Whitney Houston, ‘I Touch Myself’ for The Divinlys and ‘True Colours’ for Cyndi Lauper among many many others.).
“He just had this beautiful melodious bed track. We just started working on it and he just lyrically stunned me. I didn’t know what to say,” Jess says. “After we finished the track, I remember asking to listen to it back a few times because I was loving it. I loved the strength of it, but I asked (Jess adopts a sheepish voice) ‘Billy… What do you think about someone else being on the track? I really believe that we should get someone really special to duet on the track.’
“I remember saying, ‘Billy, how would I get Jay Sean on this track?’ He replied with a ‘meh – we’ll get something happening.’
“So I was on my way back home to Australia and I got an email with ‘What Happened To Us’ attached to it. I was listening back to it and I went insane as the second verse came in. I yelled “NO YOU DIDN’T!!?’.” She then bubbles over with laughter in her chair.
‘What Happened To Us’ also seems to be finding favour at local radio and retail, with the song moving up into the iTunes top 20 last week. This release is also coupled with a (very limited edition) signed physical CD single. And Jessica is quick to point out that yes, she’s hand-signed them all.
“Every one of them. They tied me up, they chained me to the chair and they told me I wasn’t going anywhere before I signed all of them,” she says, very tongue in cheek. “Not until the last one. Sometimes that can get really tiring. By the end of it it was all kind of ‘JM’. No squiggles or ‘Jessicas’. No I’m kidding. I really did sign every single copy and I think it’s a beautiful thing. Most of my fans want to get their hands on something that’s more exciting than just a digital track.”
And it delights us to find out that the physical version of ‘What Happened To Us’ is not just one of those dreaded one-trackers either.
“The physical single has the two remixes of ‘What Happened To Us’ on the b-side. The remixes really amazed me. I was curious to find out what they’d do to the track in remix form. I’m really thrilled with the way they’ve turned out,” she says.
“Going back to the Beyonce tour, I just performed to track with two dancers, so this is going to be something completely different,” she says. “I’ve been working with a live band, so we’re going to rock it out. We’re going to put some electric and percussion in there and take it to another level.”
She also tells us to expect the Justice Crew boys to drop by.
“Yeah, the Justice Crew boys are there too. That’s going to be interesting because every time I do a gig with them, we always seem to do a collaboration. You never know. Perhaps they may come out randomly and do their thing on one or two songs.
“But with a whole tour, it’s usually a case of towing the line with what the big act’s team is after. We could be on the third song and they could want us off the stage. We’re just preparing for the worst. I just remember doing the Beyonce tour and her guys asking us to cut it because they were running out of time.”
Jessica also says that plans are already well advanced for the “what comes next” phase following on from the current single, saying her fans can expect much more to come from the ‘Get ‘Em Girls’ project.
“We’re trying to take the album straight through to Christmas,” she says, hinting at more. “We might even be doing a re-package, which is really cool. All new photos. This might happen next week – I don’t know. I guess it really depends. But before Christmas would be lovely.
“I’ve also been in the studio again. I’ve had some of the previous producers I’ve worked with send me some new stuff and I’ve just been working on it. Putting my thing on it.”
Despite all the naysaying about the performance of Jessica’s latest project, ‘Get ‘Em Girls’ the album has already achieved a gold sales status and has charted inside the top ten – higher than her debut album ‘Been Waiting’ which, after countless singles and a repackage, went on to achieve double platinum sales.
“It’s interesting, because the more people hear, the more they end up getting curious about the album,” Jess says. “I’m so excited. This is the part where we can really ramp it up.”
Jessica’s latest single ‘What Happened To Us’ (featuring Jay Sean) is available digitally now.
The limited edition signed physical single is available from her official website (link below) until Thursday March 24, 2011.
Jessica’s album ‘Get ‘Em Girls’ is available digitally and physically now.
Catch Jessica on tour with Chris Brown nationally throughout late April and early May.