Roisin Murphy – “Overpowered”
In 2007 singer Roisin Murphy released her second solo album “Overpowered”. Wildly underrated and unheard, this a superb and sophisticated pop-dance album with any number of standout tracks on offer. Sophie Ellis-Bextor described herself once as releasing “posh pop”, well this is ‘sophisti-pop’, building on Roisin’s already established music career, and her hit singles and albums with the group Moloko.
Recording for the album took place in London, Barcelona and Miami with Roisin working with producers Andy Cato (Groove Armada), Dan Carey (Kylie), Johnny Douglass (Justin Timberlake) and Richard X (Goldfrapp) over a near two year period and followed her debut “Ruby Blue” in 2005, her first work since leaving Moloko, the group she recorded the smash hits “Sing It Back” (1999) and “The Time Is Now” (2000) with.
Sensibly, the prelude to the album was the title track, released in the Summer of 2007, Roisin gives an almost computer-generated vocal as she regurgitates lines like “As science struggles on, to try to explain, oxy-toxins flowing, ever into my brain”. And just when she thinks that she is over her man, she’s “Overpowered”. It’s repeatative and reiterates its message again and again, and herein lies the key to its success. The track gained a following with those who appreciate ‘art pop’ and became a minor hit in parts of mainland Europe.
It was the album’s second single “Let Me Know” that gained a wider following, and justifiably so. This is a superb tune and possibly the standout of all standout tracks on the album. Beginning as a torch song piano ballad, Roisin muses “I turn the other way, I’ll never turn you down, you turn me on, don’t speak out every meaning” and then it’s electro lights and waves kick in, make you clap your hands and as Roisin questions “let me know if your’re lonely baby”, the beat and bass elevate both heart and soul to a higher plain. It continually teeters on the excess of perfection throughout the remainder of its hearing, and as Roisin continually reminds us, “that could be okay”. The song was widely broadcast on British radio and that probably helped it to No.28, her highest peaking solo single still to this day. It went top 10 in Belgium and Finland as well as charting much higher than its predecessor across the rest of Europe.
Photography and artwork for this whole campaign was handled by fashion designer Gareth Pugh, who dressed Roisin in near-space age costumes and photographed her in settings and surroundings that set Roisin apart from the crowd, the album cover depicting Roisin wearing an enormous red wolley outfit, sitting in cafe and dunking a tea bag! What else! The album’s third single was “You Know Me Better”, another standout track from “Overpowered”, that continues the faster pace set my “Let Me Know”. Another infectious slice of electro-disco courtesy of Andy Cato’s production and gives rise to the question, what would a Groove Armada/Roisin Murphy collaboration sound like?! The single made No.47 in the UK and charted in Belgium and Australia.
The glam-pop excess of “Movie Star” served as the album’s fourth and final single. Originally due for release in the Spring of 2008, it was pushed back owing to Roisin’s heavy tour commitments in support of the album (she would play a total of 96 dates), eventually gaining commercial release in October that year, a full fifteen months after the album’s title track was released. Roisin recorded a version of Bryan Ferry’s 1985 hit “Slave To Love” as its B side, and for the first time in this campaign, did not appear of the cover art of the single.
“Overpowered” contains many other worthwhile commercial and noteworthy tracks including “Checkin’ On Me”, “Scarlet Ribbons” and the bonus tracks “Body Language” and “Parallel Lives”, making for a thirteen track album that lasts for just over an hour of glorious, unashamed listening beauty. It’s not Moloko. Don’t in anyway confuse it with. And if you can’t quite separate Roisin from that establishment, then soak up the inanity of “Dear Miami” or the sublime “Primitive”. Either way, the song flow and ebb, and you quickly realise just how under exposed this album was and is.
But let’s not completely undervalue the album. Critics showered it with adulation citing “not once does Overpowered drag its feet. A solid pop album of the finest pedigree”. It peaked at No.20 in the UK and has sold over 65,000 copies (gaining a Silver certification) and made the top 100 album charts across Europe and Australia. Hardly a commercial failure. But definitely deserving of bigger and wider understanding. It only received a digital release in The US, in an age where the CD was still by far the dominant medium for listening to music, and perhaps missed out on a much greater audience and better success.
Roisin would go on to record “Hairless Toys” (2015) and “Take Her Upto Monto” (2016) with varying success, but the crown of her solo career, thus far, remains this outstanding body of intriguing and delicious numbers that hold their heads high and give just a confident wink each time you ‘see’ and hear them. Enjoy!