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‘It Needed to Be More, a Full Expression’: Róisín Murphy on ‘Hit Parade’

“I always want to be going into the unknown, on an adventure,” Murphy says about her new album and lengthy career

Róisín Murphy

Nik Pate

Speaking with Róisín Murphy a few weeks shy of the release of Hit Parade, her much anticipated new album, the excitement in the Irish artist’s voice was inescapable. 

“It was a secret for a while, a lovely secret,” she told Rolling Stone AU/NZ at the time. “I was working on this record in a hobby-like way.”

Here she was, 30 years into a career littered with accolades from all different areas of the global music industry, on the precipice of releasing what many were already touting as a career-best collection of solo music.

Hit Parade, Murphy’s sixth studio outing as a solo artist, is a triumphant presentation of sonic ideas and creative evolution. Following on from 2020’s Róisín Machine, it’s the type of record that should have served as a timely reminder of Murphy’s constant strive for creative reinvention and reinvigoration.

“I knew when I was putting out those other records, that I had this one to come. It was a nice feeling to know that people were enjoying Róisín Machine particularly; I was thinking, “Well, wait until you hear the next one!”” she recalls.

Murphy’s excitement and planned impact was dashed only a week after our chat, when a social media comment she made pertaining to young trans people went viral. For Murphy, who has always maintained a large and dedicated following within the LGBTQIA+ community, these comments were particularly unexpected and hurtful.

Though Murphy responded to widespread backlash with an apology that stated, “I really hope people can understand my concern was out of love for all of us,” the damage had been done with regards to what was all set to be a home run of an album rollout. 

During our conversation, we spent time dissecting and exploring the connection between music and vivid imagery – the intertwining of the two creative elements permeating through all of Murphy’s projects to date. 

Hit Parade, developed between Murphy and DJ Koze, employs the striking talents of visual artists Beth Frey and frequent Murphy collaborator, Bráulio Amado. Murphy came across Frey’s work during the first big wave of A.I. artwork that gripped the online sphere, and was instantly drawn to the Canadian artist’s unique output.

“She’s a brilliant artist. She was able to make imagery that was different to everybody else’s,” Murphy remembered. “It had multi-layers to it and this sensorial feeling, I just wanted to touch it. Maybe even lick it, kiss it! I thought that maybe it was strong enough to hold up against the music.”

Working with Frey directly, Murphy bought a series of images from her, and began working on splicing and montaging that work with new photos of herself – ultimately leading to the vibrant, eccentric and true-to-form Róisín Murphy artistic kaleidoscope we get with Hit Parade. And while graphic designer Amado was initially hesitant in working so intensely in the A.I. realm, Murphy was able to convince him to trust the process.

“Not all the experiments worked but the ones that did, you see,” she said. “I got him [Amado] to trust me on that one. It’s just not good enough for me, for this record to be all product-y and all gorgeous, coquettish on the front cover. It wasn’t good enough for this record; it needed to be more, it needed to be a full expression.” 

“When I’m looking for stuff to wrap the music in, I want it to last forever. I want it to be something that is a piece of art. I’m trying to avoid it being some vulgar product, I want a bit more depth, sincerely.

“It’s not out of a place of wanting to freak you out, or do your head in. It’s a really sincere effort to create something that’s coming from a real place — it’s coming from me, from the artist. It’s something that hasn’t been farmed out to a lot of creatives. That makes it significant somehow. It’s brave, and it’s bold. It’s what I’m always trying to be.”

The unpredictability of a project like Hit Parade and, indeed, the unpredictability of Murphy’s artistic endeavours as a whole still allowed space for personal insights presented in a simple way. 

Returning home to Arklow, County Wicklow, to film the music video for “Fader”, Murphy noted that the decision to put her Irish hometown front and centre for this moment was a deliberate one. In a way, it serves as a representation of her place in contemporary music as an Irish artist. 

Coming from a small town at a time when the image of ‘success’ for Irish artists in the mainstream was largely relegated to the likes of U2, Murphy emerged as something new and defiant. And across her extensive career, she has continued to defy expectation; keeping fans and industry guessing her next direction. 

Going back home, going back to being around people from home… that video was one that could have only been a Róisín video,” she said of “Fader”. 

“It couldn’t have been anyone else’s video. It was also a reaction to the imagery I’d made for the artwork. Like, ‘You think you know where this is going? It can also go here,’” or, “You think you know where I’m coming from?’ – it’s been like that for most of my career, in a way.”

It currently remains to be seen when – or if – Murphy will have a moment of redemption in the public view. Hit Parade has persevered since its release, receiving highly positive reviews across the board, and is set to achieve chart success in the UK – according to The Independent, it will become Murphy’s first UK Top 10 record. 

If Murphy’s sentiments surrounding her personal and creative journey remain the same, it feels like she will continue to create regardless. Being creatively challenged and ambitious feels like home to her, and moving onto the next always feels like the natural step forward.

“For me, I always wanted to be on an adventure,” Murphy told me. “I always want to be going into the unknown, on an adventure. It can look spiky from the outside, but over a long career, those spikes start to smooth out. The dissonances start to quieten a little bit, and you start to see it as a full expression of a vision.”

Róisín Murphy’s Hit Parade is out now via Ninja Tune.