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Irish Voice Entertainment
Roisin Murphy Roars Into Town
November 5, 2008
By Cahir O’Doherty
SHE’S a famous pop singer and a internationally respected style icon – the Gucci fashion house put at the heart of their Fashion Rocks show this year – but at heart Roisin Murphy’s still a Wicklow girl who went to London and became a star.
Last week she was in New York to promote her latest album Overpowered by playing one of the most anticipated one-night-only shows on New York’s calendar this year.
Critics have described her as Madonna with talent, or Amy Winehouse with her act together, and they have called her latest album so good it’s unnerving.
What’s amazing to Irish fans who have followed her career for over 11 years is how relatively unknown she still is in the U.S., outside a large cadre of big city hipsters and Williamsburg trendsetters.
Last week’s packed concert at Mansion in Chelsea did a great deal to raise her profile here. Although she loves to write and record her albums, Murphy’s true passion is performing live and seeing the music come to life in stage shows that literally dazzle.
Alongside her irresistible beats and her impressive – and sometimes completely insane – stage outfits is the electronic dance music that has made her career.
“I’m looking forward to the New York show because it will be different to the more structured European sets we’ve been playing,” Murphy tells the Irish Voice. “There’ll be more concentration on all the hits here. It’ll be one big party from start to finish.”
For her New York gig Murphy wore a jacket with a deer attached to it that hung around her like a dead weight, perfectly capturing the meaning of the album’s title song “Overpowered” in a very unexpected way.
Ireland hasn’t produced another pop star like her – ever – and she’s been a trailblazer since her days as one half of the electronica dance outfit Moloko.
“Overpowered is a celebratory record,” she says during her interview at New York’s fashion-forward Grace Hotel. “No one else has used that term to describe it yet but that’s exactly what the record is.
“Writing it was a remarkably freeing and creative period for me. I was at a point where I was writing six new songs over a few days. Working with different producers and the new perspectives they brought to it was so rewarding.”
What’s fascinating about Murphy’s music is its breadth of reference. One minute she’s Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust singing big anthem showstoppers like “Movie Star,” one of the greatest pop songs of the last decade, while the next minute she’s a vamping Grace Jones singing an art house tune.
Disco meets electronica meets rock and roll performed with a distinctive soul singer’s voice. It’s no wonder her audience is as diverse as her own sound.
Says Murphy, “I was very nervous of that song “Movie Star” when I first recorded because I was afraid it was a little too much hold your scarves in the air and sing girls and boys, you know? So I took it to Sheffield to the production house there and dirtied it up.”
Trying to make sense of how a trailblazing pop star like Murphy got started in Wicklow is a puzzle, but she sees no mystery herself.
“I am exactly like all my Irish aunties. We have never worked for anyone else, even in the worst of times. We had our independence. We’re Celtic tigresses,” she says with a laugh.
“All the women in my family love dressing up and showing off and I’m no different myself. I don’t feel any different to any of them and they don’t feel any different to me.”
Murphy says that the whacked out costumes she often wears are essential to her performance and her stage persona, because they say something about the song she’s singing, and they free her up to take risks.
“If I went on stage in jeans and a t-shirt that would be dishonest. Even when I was a little girl in Wicklow I had an exhibitionist streak, like the time I went into town and got my hair shaved into a marine cut. When she came my dad started crying, but I loved it. It was so liberating.”
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