Imelda May – Slip of the Tongue
Imelda May swaps her trademark powerhouse vocals for spoken word and pulls it off.
When your album Love Tattoo is the bestselling album of all-time by a homegrown female Irish artist then it would be easy for Imelda May to stick at what she knows works, so full marks for having a go at spoken word.
Spoken word used to be a bit of a niche area, but with the likes of Kate Tempest and Dave gaining big audiences for the form then there is clearly a market for it. May’s debut spoken word EP tackles issues like obsession, heartbreak, Covid isolation and love.
May is a talented songwriter, so all the spoken passages come with subtle backing, like Becoming’s tasteful gospel background vocals as May mulls over what it means to be a woman, opening with a straightforward line: “I am woman/I am me” as she examines all the complexities of womanhood, and this couldn’t be more timely.
She uses strings on the incredibly moving and personal Roses, a reflection of what it means to be an artist, and the loneliness that can happen after the buzz of a live gig has gone – noting it is: “The sacrifice for the art, I suppose”.
May has a lovely speaking voice and her lilting delivery is perfect for Stay, which must be one of the first pieces of work reflecting on impact of the current pandemic as she urges us to: “Keep going/stay sane”. It’s such a hopeful piece set to birdsong as May looks at how communities are coming together with neighbours leaving food on the doorstep as she urges us to sleep away the worry, plant some potatoes or just “Drink the wine you were keeping for going”. And why the hell not?
The Dublin born singer counts Bob Dylan as one of her fans and she has always been a interesting lyricist. GBH is an amusing and risqué celebration of the joys of self-love as her protagonist celebrates: ‘labia day nine times in a row.’
May’s last album was a top five hit in the UK charts, but her legion of fans shouldn’t be too thrown by this change of direction as it remains full of her trademark musicality, wordplay, wit, warmth and a much needed dose of common humanity in these troubled times.
Review by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.