You may not know the name Dermot Kennedy, but recently the Irish singer/songwriter has burst onto the scene with his hit songs “Outnumbered” and “Power Over Me.” His debut album “Without Fear” was released on Oct. 4, 2019. In styles that range from alternative rock, to pop, to folk, to hip-hop, Kennedy presents 14 songs that dig far deeper than surface level content that is often seen in popular music.
The album opens on the soft piano ballad “An Evening I Will Not Forget” which shows Kennedy recalling the unique details of a memory made with someone he loves. This theme fades into the next track “All My Friends,” a higher tempo song with a catchy beat that still features gorgeous piano work. Although the people he reflects on are no longer in his life, he still remembers them fondly.
He addresses that there are problems, but he chooses to focus on the beautiful moments they had, saying, “What’s important is this evening I will not forget.” Although “All My Friends” has sad undertones, it will have you singing along happily. It is clear that Kennedy has a gift for focusing on the good times, even in dark situations.
“Power Over Me” is the irresistible single that topped the alternative rock charts in the United States upon its release. The catchy tune is laced with giddy feelings towards someone. Kennedy surrenders that he is head-over-heels for this person, and there is no turning back. The song’s instrumental, bewitching lyrics and usage of dark and cozy imagery makes it the perfect song for a fall night.
Kennedy’s raspy vocals shine on the regret-filled ballad “What Have I Done” and the emotion filled “The Corner.” These slower tracks highlight his vocals, which heavily favor Ed Sheeran’s in places.
“Lost” is undeniably one of the best tracks on the album. It navigates a complicated relationship that is filled with uncertainty. The lyrics take many different turns on this road, but do a beautiful job of detailing the complexity of human emotions and expressing the sad frustration of knowing someone who does not see their own value. In the closing chorus, Kennedy states, “I’ve learned in love and death, we don’t decide. And if only you could see yourself in my eyes, you’d see you shine.” The use of light and fire is a metaphor that carries throughout the whole album, but is most prominent on this track.
The reminiscent “Rome” is an instant tear jerker for me. The emotion packed in his vocals is so overwhelming that you find yourself empathizing with him. “Rome” tells a beautiful story of times past that will leave you feeling a sense of longing.
“Outnumbered” is the second single from the album and the first song I ever heard from Kennedy. It immediately draws you in with its opening notes. The verses on “Outnumbered” experiment with a spoken word style that works well for him and this song. He gives the simple message, “on the nights you feel outnumbered, baby, I’ll be out there somewhere.” I will not be surprised if this song continues to blow up for him.
The following track, “Dancing Under Red Skies,” is another personal favorite that features outstanding vocals, intimate details of memories, and lovable lyrics. It also makes “Without Fear” the perfect fall album.
The last fourth of the album features a few forgettable tracks that do not stand out to me, but there is not a single song on the album that is bad. Kennedy closes with the title track “Without Fear,” a beautiful song that sees him release a lot of the anxieties expressed on the album. It feels like a conclusion to the tension and emotional turmoil that seems to haunt him. Dermot is finally able to live and love in the present, without fear.
Over all, I love this album. Some of the tracks have a tendency to run together because of their similarities, and there are a few tracks that I’m indifferent to, but over all, this is a beautiful debut album and a great one to put on this fall. I think Dermot Kennedy has a lot of potential and a great future ahead of him in the music industry. If you are a fan of Ed Sheeran, James Bay, Taylor Swift, Twenty One Pilots, Bastille or you just need a good album for fall, check out “Without Fear.”