Dermot Kennedy - 'Power Over Me'
‘Power Over Me’, the thunderous new track by Dermot Kennedy, is a heart-wrenching masterpiece. Beautifully weaving almost-savagely emotive roars and an untempered ferocity with delicate acoustics and heartfelt lyricism, Dermot is able to create a power-house of a song.
Hailing from Dublin (or more specifically hailing from Rathcoole, just outside of Dublin) Dermot Kennedy is known for his incredible vocals. Despite not yet being a household name, Dermot has sold out venues across the world, and is currently in the middle of the sold out UK leg of his worldwide ‘Keep the Evenings Long’ tour. In fact, the release of ‘Power Over Me’ coincides with the announcement of five new UK dates to come in May 2019, including the prestigious O2 Academy Brixton in London. His song ‘After Rain’ has racked almost 50,000,000 streams on Spotify and he possesses close to 2,000,000 monthly listeners; not to mention his hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. It was performed on stage with Glen Hansard at his show in December 2014, having been invited up and told ‘the stage is yours for ten minutes’. And that’s just one track!
Many of Dermot’s songs revolve around the contrast between love and loss. His debut EP, ‘Doves & Ravens’ reflects this- equally determined and desperate, it is full of sweltering, anthemic and passionate choruses surrounded by graceful and haunting harmonies. ‘Power Over Me’ is no exception.
Written with Scott Harris and Stephen Kozmeniuk (who was nominated for a Grammy on his work on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’), the song came from a novel approach for the Irish singer-songwriter. Used to writing songs as they came to him, ‘Power Over Me’ was instead born from a core idea. They took the key line from the chorus, ‘you’ve got that power over me’, and branched outwards. Dermot describes it as a ‘good challenge’- trying to make a cohesive song based around that one line without running the risk of losing that underlying message. ‘It’s kind of just a song about when someone has control over you, but in a positive way’ he says, describing the record, ‘and it’s just total admiration... you’re just in awe of someone who bewitched you’.
Opening with stirring harmonies, gentle guitar, and even softer piano, it quickly breaks into Dermot’s unique vocals, slowly gaining power as the song approaches its explosive chorus. ‘You’ve got that power over me (my my)/ everything I hold dear resides in those eyes’. And that’s what is so unique about all of Dermot’s releases so far, if perhaps not ‘Power Over Me’ specifically. They reflect an innate mastery over the dynamics of sound- the ebb and flow, expertly cut with moments of baited-breath silence, of his voice.
The song’s bridge, if it can be called that, marks a sudden change from the rhythmic, off-kilter drum-beat laden choruses, focussing solely on Dermot’s powerful voice over simmering piano chords. ‘You decide if darkness knows you well’ being a particularly poignant line, depending on how it’s read; namely, as a prayer from the enamoured Dermot to his enchantress begging her not to be consumed by the darkness in her mind and heart, which reflects his own wish of wanting her to ‘sing to [him] softly/ cause then [he’s] outrunning the dark’; the two of them using each other to stay in the light, together. The song is even better live, reverberating with energy and passion which reflects off of the crowd, resulting in a mesmerising performance. It- the song- makes the listener feel truly alive.
According to Dermot Kennedy, ‘the goal is to put out good music, not sell out shows’- it’s just a happy coincidence that he is good enough to be able to do both.
Words by James O’Sullivan