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Album Review: Janet Devlin – Hide and Seek

Photo: Rosie Hardy

You would be forgiven for thinking that Janet Devlin might go down the Paramore route for her debut. On The X Factor, she struggled through the woes of nobody knowing who her favourite band was (It’s Red Hot Chilli Peppers by the way, those elusive boys!) and got lumped with covering Hanson one week. She dutifully messed up the words in what was detailed as ‘nerves getting the better of her’ but in my eyes, has always been Janet’s own critical commentary of how silly the whole ‘MMMBop’ suggestion actually was. As if to add fuel to the fire, Devlin has taken the serious muso path of fan-funding her own record. Surely this is going to be erring on the wrong side of pretentious? Surely this whole project is going to reek of organic real-ness? In fact, ‘Hide and Seek’ only serves to prove that Devlin’s herrings are just as red as her locks.

So get over your disappointment indie fans and rejoice pop enthusiasts – ‘Hide And Seek’ is one of the poppiest records to emerge this year. It feels redundant to have to say this time and time again, but it’s always nice to emphasise that pop no longer equates to cheese. There are actual real instruments on this album. Like, people plucking and blowing tangible things. Amazing, right? And in all seriousness, it does suit Janet. An electronic album might have been written in the dreams of a few supporters but she sits naturally with a live band backing. The pop structures come in thick and fast and, without them, maybe it would have been a bit more NME friendly, but they do lend a helping hand in conjuring ideas of Janet having a genuine chart-bothering career. ‘Wonderful’ sounds like something Taylor Swift might have penned for Carly Rae Jepsen – it has an American twang that is prominent on a lot of the tunes here – namely ‘Working For The Man’ and ‘Pick Me Up’.

The standard of material here is good. For a debut and from a young performer, it’s more than adequate but, not to belittle any of the tunes here, with a few tweaks and an extra kick, almost all the songs could have been that bit better. ‘Crown Of Thorns’ brings a particularly poignant chorus that is slightly let down by the production, whilst penultimate track ‘Nothing Left To Hide’ bring some Ellie Goulding flavour but risk being forgotten under the strength of the surrounding material.

The album highlights are pretty spectacular though – the orchestral majesty of ‘When We Were Young’ is entirely unexpected and a fitting close with the strength of it’s passion and a stunning lyrical performance. ‘Creatures Of The Night’ is one of the more straight forward pop tunes and it is definitely one of the most accessible and memorable thanks to the twinkling piano, intermittent guitar and some plucky strings that re-emerge on the title track, another catchy gem. The instrumentals are not too keen to slip into the background either, as ‘Who Am I To You’ brings an almost Coldplay vibe to it’s main hook and the piano that is interspersed over the album is often heart warming and addictive (see ‘Walk Away’ and ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ for proof).

All too often, young artists grow old before their time. It’s hard to believe that Adele, with her life-lesson record ’21’, is as young as she is and even the Bieber has attempted a more grown up output recently. Refreshingly, Janet allows her youth to coexist with an essence of maturity. It’s just enough to straddle the line of appealing to both an older and a younger crowd – tunes like ‘Wonderful’ and ‘Pick Me Up’ sound timeless and familiar and don’t concern themselves with one particular target audience.

So it’s probably as far from the electro rock of Paramore as can be thanks to it’s penchant for a calmer vibe, but it’s just as Janet Devlin as we have anticipated Perhaps we knew her better than she knew herself but that airy, breathy voice that charmed the masses on X Factor has emerged with a handful of tunes that will serve to retain her fanbase and lure in a few more fans. It takes risks that keep you on your toes (‘Creatures Of The Night’, ‘When We Were Young’) but also delivers exactly what you might have expected (‘Wonderful’) which is, in all honesty, a very clever way to manage your debut.

Photo: Rosie Hardy
Words: Simon McMurdo

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