Janet Devlin – Confessional Album Review

Rating: 2.5/5

Janet Devlin is only 25, but her music speaks of a wealth of experiences.

A stint on the X Factor in 2011, a YouTube channel with over half a million subscribers, and having fought a long battle with alcoholism that left her in the darkest places of her life, Devlin seems like the sort of person to be down and out. But her second album, Confessional, shows her striding forward, creating a newer, stronger her along the way. It’s one of the freshest Irish pop albums in a long time.

Devlin’s career begun in the early days of YouTube, where she posted covers of songs and attracted an audience with her youthful Irish looks and sense of fun. But her big break came in 2011, when her cover of “Your Song” melted the nation’s hearts on X Factor. Interestingly enough, by the time she left the show, she was one of the most in demand performers on that years shows, and quickly released an EP and full length.

All seemed to be going Devlin’s way, but behind the scenes, a debilitating battle with alcoholism was pulling the strings. On “Confessional”, Devlin looks at her addiction head on, which makes lyrics such as “I’ve been drinking again” all the more heart-breaking.

But Devlin’s second album is far from impoverished and worn out. Devlin sounds more alive than ever, ditching the soft guitar tracks for a much larger, cinematic feel. Tied alongside her own autobiography, Confessional plays like a film; it’s tracks being uplifting tales of love lost, fighting the pains of addiction and the wonders of being young.

In fact, for long time fans of Devlin, opener Confessional may be the biggest shock. Devlin, wearing her Northern Irish heritage on her sleeves, starts in a lower register, and she sings her heart out. “There’s so much sin for 21” is the first sign that the innocent girl that so many had fallen in love with in 2011 is gone, replaced instead with a warrior.

Likewise, So Cold places Devlin with a bitterness, sadness, having lost someone she clearly felt a lot towards. “You’re too young to be so old” almost feels like Devlin’s own brain speaking to her, the experiences of life clearly giving her a powerful sense of maturity.

But Confessional is not without it’s lighter songs. “Big Wide World” is a particular highlight, catching Devlin in one of her happiest places. The sprightly guitars, the clicks and light guitar builds to a blinding chorus. It’s a bright, gorgeous piece of pop music, and Devlin is assured and confident, taking centre stage. It’s also reminiscent of her cover of “Friday I’m In Love” which was one of the highlights on her first album.

With her Northern Irish heritage playing a big role on this album, it’s no surprise that her music feels best suited to a party. “Wash away my demons,” Devlin sings, along with her backing vocalists, before a crowd sings back for her to save them from themselves on Holy Water, which is one of the most energetic songs of Devlin’s career.

Unfortunately, it feels like an album of two very different halves, the earlier, slower tracks painting a picture of sadness, loss and regret, and the latter tracks throwing caution to the wind and jumping with joy. It plays like two completely different personalities, which sometimes leaves Devlin lacking in either. It gave me half an album I liked, and another half that played like one of the most original and blisteringly brilliant Irish pop albums that I have heard in a long time.

Nonetheless, Confessional is a triumphant album. It shows Devlin at her most powerful, assured, confident and interesting. It is a masterclass in the idea that you can get knocked down a million and 2 times, but you’ll always land on your feet.

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