Featured Image: Emma Jane Lewis
After a successful stint on The X Factor in 2011, Janet Devlin quickly became a household name. Known for following her own path, she carried on independently after her time on the show without signing to a major label- as most usually do. However, Devlin has countlessly proved that she is anything but your typical musician. One of her earliest releases, ‘Outernet Song’ (2016), discussed the dangers of aspiring to the perfection seen on social media and viewing it as the truth. Topped off with her catchy ukulele playing and unmatchable vocals, she was – and remains- a breath of fresh air in the music scene.
After over 5 years, the 25-Year-Old has returned with her sophomore album, Confessional, acting as a follow up to her debut album, Running With Scissors. Devlin’s penchant for honest lyrics has always been remarkable. Leaving no stone unturned in her latest release, Devlin discusses her battles with anorexia, self-harm and alcoholism. She is here to bravely tell her story, in the rawest and most personal way possible.
The twelve-track album is as follows: ‘Confessional’, ‘So Cold’, ‘Saint of the Sinners’, ‘Cinema Screen’, ‘Speak’, ‘Honest Men’, ‘Love Song’, ‘Big Wide World’, ‘Away with the Fairies’, ‘Sweet Sacred Friend’, ‘Holy Water’ and ‘Better Now’.
Each track on her aptly titled album describes a different confession from the artist. Its autobiographical nature causes the album to act as a journey. It takes the listener by the hand, guiding them through her life, from her beginnings in Gortin, Northern Ireland to the unapologetically unique artist we know today. With this in mind, the album also appears to be split into two halves. The first half discusses feelings of regret, sadness and longing. By contrast, the second instils a sense of self-acceptance, hope and love.
Brought up on Irish bands such as The Fureys and The Dubliners, it’s not surprising that Devlin’s love for Irish traditional music grew, and became part of her identity as an artist. Her opening track, ‘Confessional’, immediately introduces the album with ethereal Irish fiddles and percussion. Working with producer Jonathan Quarmby (Lewis Capaldi, Tom Walker) on the album seems to have been the perfect creative partnership for Devlin. They’ve managed to find the quintessential balance of using magical background instrumentals, without drowning out the vocals which set her apart from the herd. During the track, she announces, “And though the honesty hurts/ The crying was worst/ Now tell me I’ll be saved”. Always vulnerable in her lyric writing, this is the crux of Devlin’s strength as an artist.
Her second track, ‘So Cold’, begins with a fluttering of light piano, creating an enchantingly melodic track. It’s admirable in its simplicity, however, the contrasting change in the post-chorus is both haunting and dramatic. The repetition of the words “You’re so young to be so old”, is far from being dull. Its effect is soul-shattering, forcing you to really listen to her lyrics.
‘Saint of the Sinners’ is another powerful track, bolstered by the thunderous drumbeat and violins. The track discusses Devlin’s struggle with depression, detailing how she found the inner strength to move on from her tumultuous past. Written at 21 years of age, she defiantly sings, “I am more than the tears I’ve cried/ I am more than the blood that’s dried”. Empowering lyrics for others to pay attention to, reminding you that it is always possible to make a U-turn- even when you think you have no choices left.
Signalling a shift in the tone of the album, ‘Love Song’, is exactly what it says on the tin. It is a pure reflection of unexpected love, and butterflies in your stomach. Followed with ‘Big Wide World’, it is another upbeat track, featuring melodic ukulele, bodhrán and percussion. The track oozes childlike wonder and newfound innocence. Interestingly, the inspiration for the accompanying music video was taken from Devlin’s favourite scene in Forest Gump.
‘Away With The Fairies’ is described by Devlin as being about “the beer goggles”, we have in our teenage years. It discusses how alcohol is taken as something to boost our mood with magical effects. Similarly, to how the repercussions of too much alcohol are forgotten, the listener becomes lost in the whimsicalness created by the harp, cello and piano.
Penultimate track on the album, ‘Holy Water’, indicates Devlin’s move to self-acceptance and the beginning of her next chapter. It may be one of the simpler sounding tracks on the record. However, it features 19 performers, including some incredibly talented figures from the traditional Irish scene, such as Eoin Dillon, Brian Fleming and Peter Browne. It marks a celebratory moment for Devin, topped off with a foot-stomping rhythm. Written in less than 30 minutes, it’s her self-confessed favourite track on the album.
It’s worth noting that lungs appear to be a recurring motif in the album, acting as a wider metaphor for life. At the beginning of the aforementioned track, ‘Confessional’, Devlin sings, “There’s a secret on the tip of my tongue/ And it’s burning the hole between my lungs”. These words almost suggest that to live, she had to share her story with others. In the closing track, ‘Better Now’, Devlin offers some final sage advice, “But the truth won’t come from empty lungs/ But lies will come from everyone.” True words, spoken from the wise songstress. The track also acts as a lasting reminder, that she is “better now”.
Janet Devlin’s book, My Confessional, was released via Omnibus Press. It discusses the last decade of her life, putting her struggles into words as eloquently as her songs. Similarly, to the layout of her album, it is ordered into twelve chapters- each describing the subjects which shaped her. Devlin’s work narrates her time at school, her period on The X Factor, as well as the release of her latest album. It signifies the start of Devlin’s new beginning, fuelled with hope for the future. On her book, Devlin has stated: “You’re holding my life in your hands. Not the picture perfect version we’ve all become accustomed to thanks to social media. This is my life as I’ve lived it – no filters.”
As well as sharing her life through her music and her book, Devlin also has a successful YouTube channel. On her channel, she discusses a range of topics with her fans, such as mental health, sexuality and bullying. She also shares a plethora of material with her 545k subscribers, from original music to cover songs, as well as poetry and vlogs. Devlin is no stranger to repeatedly baring her soul for all to see.
Devlin’s story is a timeless tale. After pouring her efforts into her latest album and accompanying book, Devlin proves that there is light for everyone at the end of the tunnel. It won’t be long before she is bringing her infectious atmosphere to venues all over. Her road to success has been anything but easy, however, this milestone surely indicates that this phoenix has courageously risen above her past. We look forward to accompanying her in the next chapter of her life.
Janet Devlin’s latest album, Confessional, is available on all major streaming services. Her book, My Confessional, is available to purchase from all major bookstores. You can purchase it from Amazon here.
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