❉ A finely-crafted pop concept album, and a vindication of Janet as an artist.
“this album is a roller coaster of emotions, truth, honesty and all a mix of real highs and lows, and one thing that isn’t lacking is authenticity; Janet has laid her soul and her experiences to date out here musically.”
There’s a lot of cultural snobbery around musical artists who aren’t perceived to have ‘paid their dues’, and there’s a lot of people are dismissive of those who’ve come to the attention on the back of the talent show industry.
In tandem with her autobiography, My Confessional, Janet Devlin, who rose to prominence on the 2011 season of The X Factor when she was 16, has recorded and released an intensely personal and intimate album, Confessional, which draws on Janet’s life experiences, her alcoholism and toxic relationships, as she discussed with We Are Cult recently.
Janet has previously praised the X Factor for all the support they gave her, including a psychiatrist in Harley Street, and as her book explains, her issues were there before The X Factor and stardom amplified them.
Having been sober 5 years, this album is a roller coaster of emotions, truth, honesty and all a mix of real highs and lows, and throughout the songs on here, one thing that isn’t lacking is authenticity; Janet has laid her soul and her experiences to date out here musically.
From the singles that have been released, the cleverly written and performed Saint of the Sinners, the truly startling and emotive Honest Men (which works so well in tandem with its powerful video) which, when I first saw it, struck me as how much Janet has grown as singer and a performer.
Her voice, already distinctive and beautiful, almost brought me to tears with the searing power and emotion she carries throughout Honest Men, and comparisons to female artists of the like of Kate Bush or Tori Amos would not go amiss here – yes, Janet is up there.
Away with the Fairies is a clever mix of fantasy and fact and is a clever musical metaphor for her alcoholism and her struggle and is another belter.
My Confessional, the titular track (of both book and album) sees Janet wrapping her words up in a warm traditional Irish sound, mixing old and the new ((a common thread throughout this album), and the bold with the beautiful, with searing honesty which is apparent throughout the album.
The reference to Confessional returns on the Irish gospel Holy Water where she’s apologising for her old ways and looking for redemption, despite some of the themes on this album, there’s a lot to love on here, plenty of light amid the darkness, and Holy Water is one of those tracks, where the optimism shines through the track, like the glimpse of sunlight at the end of the storm.
This is a finely crafted set of twelve tracks which are accompanied by a chapter in her book, and having spent a lot of time building her online presence with a dedicated You Tube channel, and online gigs (which are worth diving back into) this is vindication of Janet as an artist.
On the haunting Speak, with its sympathetic musical accompaniment, Janet sings heartbreakingly about a sexual assault – this is as impactful as any song I’ve heard, and at 42, I am still surprised to find music that moves me, and makes me think in a different way.
The album isn’t all doom and gloom, there’s the brilliant Cinema Screen – reflecting and reviewing all the mistakes we’ve made (and trust me as someone suffering with anxiety and other issues – I can totally empathise and get this emotion) and another upbeat song, Big Wide World, is a perfect summer song, a reminiscence of Janet’s first visit to New York, and the optimism and joy filters throughout.
In linking this album, which hangs together so well, with her autobiography and putting herself out there emotionally and personally, Janet has created a perfectly crafted pop concept album, one that is chock full of emotion, honesty, a fantastic performance from Janet throughout as well as sympathetic musical collaborators.
Whether because of some of my previous mental health issues I’m identifying with these songs as some of them speak to me on a personal level, or because I’m drawn in by the emotional honesty and beauty of these songs, I’m not sure, but ultimately it doesn’t matter.
This is a beautiful album, one of those that enchants, beguiles you and draws you in, leaving you in a different place emotionally than where you started, and you can’t ask for anything better than that.
❉ ‘My Confessional’ was released on 5 June 5, 2020 and is available from https://www.janetdevlin.com/store
❉ Visit https://www.patreon.com/JanetDevlin and get access to more of Janet Devlin’s music, poetry and behind-the-scenes content.
❉ James R. Turner is a music and media journalist. Over the last 25 years he has contributed to the Classic Rock Society magazine, BBC online, Albion Online, The Digital Fix, DPRP, Progarchy, ProgRadar and more. James’ debut book is out in September and he is head of PR for Bad Elephant Music. He lives in North Somerset with his fiancee Charlotte, their Westie Dilys & Ridgeback Freja, three cats and too many CDs, records & Blu-Rays.