December 14, 2007
XO's Pop Star O' 2007: Róisín Murphy
There have been years where this "award" was not an option. This time it was practically crying out to me. While 2007 was loaded down with great albums and artists with actual integrity (a rare commodity), I can't think of anyone more forceful than Róisín Murphy.
Róisín likes to talk about how she stumbled into music as a young chick, asking "Do you like my sweater?" on a dance song. As the years have progressed, it is clear that she's been a sort of open vessel of learning. Everything led to Overpowered. Her previous work is very good, but this is more than an album: corny as it sounds, it's an "event." Killer music, unique visuals and a true character at the heart of it all.
In my review of her album, I talked about the two sides to Róisín, often evident in her vocals. One is a pop girl with a sweet, high voice and the other is an almost masculine force. I think the best artists are able to channel these sides of their persona. Tori Amos has built a career on joining the madonna and the "whore" back into one, and Róisín also really joins up what we associate as feminine and masculine.
The music did what the best pop should: the elements added up to something beyond their parts. There hasn't been much dispute on the web about Let Me Know being stellar. It exudes emotion in a way that only this singer could have done. Her songs have a certain wisdom to them, especially You Know Me Better: "How many years can we keep going on this way? / Too afraid... too much at stake / I believe the friendship can survive / Or maybe it won't, if we do or we don't."
She proved that in the media too, when manchild Calvin Harris publicly savaged her on PopJustice for not putting his song on her record. How very dare she! Calvin, who was proclaimed a genius by the media after one single - if that isn't a red alert, I don't what is - acted like a prat and Róisín just wrote it off with a sigh: "He's young." She forgave him and he has since apologized.
Her visuals are as much a part of her self expression as her lyrics. Not unusual for a pop star, but - let's be real - Róisín has the BEST HAIR IN POP MUSIC [evidence] and she has the best clothes and the best moves, both sexy and droll. It's all done with great care and thought, but none of it seems overwrought or too serious. She seems relaxed and free and confident.
Which brings me to "the incident." Róisín bashed the fuck out of her face whole dancing wildly onstage in Russia this year. Have you done this before? Flailed around with such abandon that you either hurt yourself or broke something? You feel like a fool, but there's a part of you that thinks, "Wait! I was right to let go!" Róisín was onstage again like 10 days after it happened and if that isn't work ethic, I don't know what is.
Either you get her or you don't. Love her or leave her, I just have one more thing I need to say: Róisín Murphy has the best champagne cups in the biz. Figure it out for yourself. And dig it all, she's the Queen Of The Year.
Thanks to the great Róisín fanblog for all their work this year.
What's coming in 2008: A new Róisín single for You Know Me Better and more touring, I hope.
*photo of RM in Amsterdam on Nov 21 by the excellent kikicrumbles