Music, writing, the arts -- they all require a massive amount of honesty, vulnerability, and hard work. When I sit down and think about it, Sinead O'Connor was one of our great models of this.
When she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II to make a statement on pedophilia in the church, people said it ruined her career. However, she always wanted to use her fame to make change, to do what she felt was right.
Her most famous song "Nothing Compares 2 U" has never appealed to me. I know I may make some music enemies by saying this, but it felt...fake, not her, and unemotional, and I believe the reason I have this opinion over what others thing is because I heard her team up with The Chieftains for "The Foggy Dew" way before I heard "Nothing Compares 2 U". To me, it shows us the real pain and strength of O'Connor.
Let's dig in.
"The Foggy Dew" -- The Chieftains, Sinead O'Connor
As down the glen one Easter morn To a city fair rode I There armed lines of marching men In squadrons passed me by No pipe did hum No battle drum did sound its loud tattoo But the Angelus Bells o'er the Liffey swells Rang out in the foggy dew Right proudly high in Dublin town Hung they out a flag of war 'Twas better to die 'neath that Irish sky Than at Sulva or Sud-El-Bar And from the plains of Royal Meath Strong men came hurrying through While Brittania's Huns with their long range guns Sailed in through the foggy dew Their bravest fell and the requiem bell Rang mournfully and clear For those who died that Eastertide in the Springing of the year While the world did gaze with deep amaze At those fearless men but few Who bore the fight that freedom's light Might shine through the foggy dew And back through the glen, I rode again And my heart with grief was sore For I parted then with valiant men Whom I never shall see n'more But to and fro in my dreams I go And I kneel and pray for you For slavery fled, O glorious dead When you fell in the foggy dew
Now, there is a lot here historically about the Irish Fight for Independence, but my focus of this post is showing how authenticity matters. So, please, take a second to watch the video on YouTube. Or don't even watch it. Just listen.
There are so many pieces I could highlight, but I'm going to focus on the last eight lines. Dynamics. She follows the melody of the song, but she knew when to grow louder and more passionate depending on the words. For example -- "And I kneel and pray for you" -- very significant. Lives were lost, and she is grieving. And yet, she keeps the strength in her voice as she continues "For slavery fled, O glorious dead", and then, backs off to conclude the song in a somber tone -- "When you fell in the foggy few".
Dynamics can be a singer/songwriter's best friend, but the lyrics must support those dynamics. Have you ever heard someone note that a singer is really good, but they do too many trills too often? Or they have a great voice, but they always sound like they are yelling? **cough cough Kelly Clarkson** The singers have to give the lyrics the time and consideration they deserve to truly present the song in an authentic way to appeal to many people. So, whether you are the singer and songwriter or you have two different group members who do this, communication, authenticity, and emotion are all key to delivering a good song.
Until next time.