Janet Devlin tells her life story on album that was six years in the making
Janet Devlin has been working for six years straight to finally deliver her second studio album titled Confessional. The Irish singer and songwriter had her first breakthrough when she participated in X Factor UK back in 2011, when she was just 16 years old. She didn’t sign with a major label and started her own journey independently, but had to overcome a lot of personal issues to be able to finally release her second album. On highly personal songs, she opens up about her struggle with alcoholism and depression, about which she also wrote her autobiography My Confessional. Both were released over the weekend and mark an important milestone in her still young career.
Devlin opens the album with the the title track on which she sings ‘this is my confessional, of things that I have buried low’. The track is not only an announcement of the secrets she is going to unfold on the rest of the record, but also a proper introduction of the Irish folk music that is incorporated with her pop sound. The album dives straight in with ‘So Cold’, an icy, heartbreaking tune about depression and loss. “I’d still sleep with the lights on, but I don’t sleep anymore”, she sings over a gorgeous piano melody, before the actual chorus comes in with the haunting lyrics: “You’re too young to be sad they say,
you’re too young to be so cold.” Although the subject matter is heavy, the song itself is a perfectly crafted radio friendly pop anthem with hooks, a flawless build up and her signature tender vocal style.
The first half of the record is considerably more heavy than the second half with the dark mid-tempo pop song ‘Saint of the Sinners’, which deals with the topic of self-harm. The pain in her vocal delivery is undeniable, yet the song seems to show the will to fight at the same time. The instantly catchy ‘Cinema Screen’, co-written with Lauren Aquilina, brings a lighter atmosphere with its spring like instrumentation and soaring chorus, but the lyrics poetically describe her battle with an eating disorder. Devlin strips things back to piano, guitar and some strings on the ballad ‘Speak’. This song she wrote about learning how to live with an experience with sexual assault is equally heartbreaking and empowering, as she ends the song saying she is ‘ready to speak’. The song is not easy to listen to, but I applaud her for including it. Devlin fully lets the power of music do its thing with a song that could inspire and help people who went through a similar thing.
‘Honest Men’ is an ominous sounding pop anthem which Devlin wrote about the places her mind takes her when she has a depressive episode. The lyrics “Where has all my happiness gone? It disappeared the moment I sang ‘Your Song'” particularly cleverly references her X Factor audition (in which she song thát song by Elton John). ‘Love Song’ is a welcome relief after this with adorable lyrics about finally being able to write a love song, because you suddenly ‘get’ the feeling of what all these tunes are about. The chorus is infectious and should become a big singalong moment when Devlin can finally go out and tour with this record.
The trinity of ‘Away With The Fairies’, ‘Sweet Sacred Friend’ and ‘Holy Water’ deal with Devlin’s alcoholism, how she says goodbye to the bottle and celebrates sobriety in the end. Especially ‘Sweet Sacred Friend’ and ‘Holy Water’ are both lighter in spirit, upbeat, insanely catchy and drenched in Irish folk instrumentation. The sound works perfectly for Janet’s unique vocal style and gives her a singular identity as a pop artist too. Especially ‘Holy Water’ is undeniably uplifting and will sing through your head for the rest of the day. It just makes you want to jump up and dance after living through Devlin’s story with her.
Of course, the now 25 years old artist realizes that her life is not going to be all carefree from now on and that is exactly what the closing track ‘Better Now’ is about. The stripped back ballad is an afterthought that reminds us life might hit us in the face at the next corner again which is the only honest note this album could end on.
In an interview with A Bit of Pop Music, to be published later this week, Devlin explained how she wanted Confessional to be her truthful story, but at the same time an album that is enjoyable to listen to from start to finish. And that is exactly what she did! She sings her truth, but never in a self-absorbed manner that would alienate her audience and she definitely brings the tunes too. There is loads of strong melodies, vivacious instrumentation and excellent vocal work to be enjoyed here. Janet Devlin got a lot off her chest and managed to deliver a grown-up, cohesive and well-crafted record while doing so!