Monday, January 7th, 2019

Dermot Kennedy – Power Over Me

Welcome to our annual coverage of BBC’s Sound Of… artists. For 2019, we’ve decided to be as grumpy as ever…


Will Adams: All right, time to check out all the exciting, groundbreaking acts that were shortlisted for the BBC Sound of 2019 poll, including selections like *checks list* a radio remix of an Ed Sheeran album track?

Alfred Soto: A pleasant way to start a new year with a reminder that plus ça change and all that. This Irish performer wants to belt, but one doesn’t do that in the late 2010s, so instead he lets “Power Over Me” rumble to a climax that Twenty-One Pilots might recognize. 

Thomas Inskeep: According to the BBC Sound of 2019 website, Kennedy’s “musical heroes” are Glen Hansard (remember him?) and Damien Rice (remember him?). Which makes perfect sense, because “Power Over Me” is earnest, man, and precious little else. Basically he’s this year’s Rag’n’Bone Man — “he’s a real musician!” — and in six months will be big on both sides of the Atlantic. And in 12 months will be nominated for both Grammys and Brits.

Katie Gill: It seems like every “Sound Of…” year has the obligatory, gravel-voiced, pop/alternative singer. Thankfully, he’s a lot better than the obligatory gravel-voiced entry from a few years back. That’s mostly because this sound is more highly polished pop than the sort of ragged, soulful sound that I know he’ll eventually get billed as. It’s a decent song! But it just sounds intensely middle of the road, background Starbucks ambiance, especially when compared to the other entries this year.

Jonathan Bradley: For The Sound Of 2014, the BBC gave us George Ezra, a Bristolian whose “gravelly voice is certainly reminiscent of his heroes Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.” In 2015, it was James Bay, who “gained attention for his gravelled voice and uplifting, gospel-tinged choruses.” Rag’n’Bone Man made his appearance in 2017 as a “raw soul” singer who “embraced hip-hop.” Going back to the regions, 2018 had the British national broadcaster present us with “gravel-voiced singer-songwriter Tom Walker, [who] was born in Glasgow and raised in Manchester.” And here in the new year is “gravel voiced troubadour” Dermot Kennedy, whom the sages at the Beeb ventured all the way across the Irish Sea — to a whole new nation! — to find. Lest you think my reproach is concerned only with the asphalt fixations of English copywriters, know that I listened for the Damien Rice or Glen Hansard they assured me lay within Kennedy’s pebbly peroration. I heard another white kid who mistakes sham Delta scree for soul.

Katherine St Asaph: TIRED: complaining about “indie girl voice”; WIRED: complaining about dude yarl.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The chorus leads me to believe that Dermot Kennedy’s vocals are capable of projecting emotion in an admirably overwrought fashion. There’s a semblance of personality too — even admist the standard lyricism — as we hear his Irish accent come through in those pained screams. The bridge and final chorus reveal, however, that this is all Kennedy has going for him. When he lets the beat ride out for a bit, it’s abundantly clear that the instrumentation aims for grandiosity in the most hackneyed of manners, consequently unable to capture the “power” the song sorely needs.

Nicholas Donohoue: Beginner-friendly roots music, where the idea of pulling from nature is more akin to caring for a potted plant. It’s bizarre how an “anthemic” song with the word power in the title is blanketed in the chorus, but I’d rather this type of song stay subdued and lame than loud and pathetic. It’s a tacit admission that it doesn’t have the range, and I like that it knows what it is.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: “Resides in those eyes” is a really uncomfortable phrasing, but it’s the only thing here that sticks even a little. The rest is far too tame and pro-forma rootsy white guy to justify the faux-medieval pomp of the lyrics, which just end up sounding silly.

Vikram Joseph: This is one of those self-centred love songs which purportedly expresses a terrible need and blinding devotion to somebody, without saying a single thing about the other person. I thought we’d left this sort of charmless, indelicate stadium-folk behind in the early part of this decade, but someone, somehow, has decided that this is the sound of 2019.

Reader average: [5] (2 votes)

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3 Responses to “Dermot Kennedy – Power Over Me”

  1. related q: is there any artist that’s been described as a troubadour who has been good this century?

  2. @jacob – I’d argue Jamie T, at least for the first couple of albums, although he’s pretty divisive

  3. Robbie Williams sort of called himself a troubadour in “Morning Sun” (“a message to the troubadour: the world don’t love you anymore” – amazing, basically his “Ashes to Ashes”), so my vote goes to him.

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