Friday, October 8th, 2021

Dermot Kennedy – Better Days

At least he’ll always have Soccer Aid 2020


Claire Biddles: It’s a shame that this is coming out after The X Factor has gone on hiatus, because never has a song felt more specifically designed as consoling incidental music for some poor bastard being told they’re not making it to judges’ houses.

Ian Mathers: For such a straightforward Beefy Man Empathizes With Your Problems ballad (in the “effortful striving” rather than “sadly sincere” division), it’s a real surprise when the little choral parts pop in and out, eventually feeling somewhere between Coldplay and “Return to Innocence”. Your mileage here is still likely to depend mostly on your current hunger for Beefy Man balladry, but if that scratches your itch you could do a lot worse (even if my brain consistently insists “the rain it ain’t permanent” is going to be “the rain it ain’t perfect” every single time it comes by).

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Completely acceptable Global Citizen-core undercard stuff let down by a vocal performance from Dermot Kennedy that can’t quite decide what degree of soulfulness befits the situation. The pianos indicate restraint, but the choral bits are egging him on to go real hard. It can’t help that he sounds ill-equipped to do either well.

Austin Nguyen: The latest in a long line of bland comfort ballads, “Better Days” rewrites the cliches of “Let Her Go,” filters them through the faintest tint of Aloe Blacc soulfulness, and hopes a Gaelic choir is enough to keep your attention from Ed Sheeran or Lewis Capaldi. It’s like they say: Capitalism breeds innovation!

Andrew Karpan: The more I listen to this arrestingly bland Irish pop singer, the more his mediocrity pushes and pulls at my spirit. The way the octaves of his choirboy voice open like the gills of a fish around the hard consonants of words like “train”, “rain” and “togеther”, slurring them into a crude pantomime of religious experience. The spigot of mud-colored rain that washes over his half-naked body in the clip. But these are universal experiences: needless to say, I, too, have waited for public transportation that has yet to arrive and have experienced, surely, extended moments of “hurting.” The good news may be that my story, as he sings, is about to change. My train will perhaps arrive and the hurt will be replaced by dancing in the sunlight — the latter an even more peculiar image, generic beyond recognition. A pop critic for the Irish Times, amid his otherwise effusive praise (“he shares with Hozier the ability to articulate heavy feelings in an expressive, empathic and generous way”), uses the record to wonder why the stars from his native land always seems to be “a bloke” who looks and sounds like Mr. Kennedy and who even Dan Nigro can’t make sound unblokey. I don’t have the answer, unfortunately, but I can hope that this rain, “it ain’t permanent.”

Scott Mildenhall: Dermot Kennedy’s favoured dynamic of rhythmically talking before SUUDDEENNLY BELLOWING is as predictable as almost everything else about “Better Days” (the quavering Gaelic choir being the exception). No crime there, but to freight it all with such insisted import ensures it has the tedium of an unsolicited lecture. If it brings people solace, great, but perhaps you needn’t deliver it to them from the bucket of a JCB.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: I hate to criticize something that seems so genuine, but I’ll be damned if this isn’t emoted with the overripeness of a brown banana being circled by fruit flies and which should have been thrown out days ago. 

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