PRO­FILE

Róisín Mur­phy opens up on her new era of stylish, cere­bral pop.

Fashion (Canada) - - Front Page - —Elio Iannacci

Singer Róisín Mur­phy is inspired by the un­con­ven­tional—and drag per­form­ers are just the be­gin­ning.

“MON­STROUSLY TAL­ENTED!” “AN­TI­CON-

formiste artist!” “Un­der­rated ge­nius!” These are just three of many im­pas­sioned com­ments you’ll find on YouTube un­der singer Róisín Mur­phy’s video for “Ex­ploita­tion,” the first sin­gle off of her latest disc, Hair­less Toys. Mur­phy is a favourite among the fash­ion flock (she fa­mously sang on the run­way at Vik­tor & Rolf ’s Spring 2010 show wear­ing a gi­ant lamp­shade top and is cited as Gareth Pugh’s first celeb sup­porter) and hard-core gallery go­ers (Si­mon Hen­wood painted her im­age for her de­but solo al­bum). She’s one of the only elec­tronic vo­cal­ists out there whose pieces seem part of a work-in-progress the­sis.

Be it in short films or on al­bum sleeves, her im­ages are sat­u­rated with lush cul­tural ref­er­ences that stray from the Warhol-meets-Monroe icon canon so of­ten seen in Madonna, Lady Gaga or Bey­oncé’s works. For ex­am­ple, Mur­phy’s self-di­rected video to “Ex­ploita­tion” tips its hat to the John Cas­savetes-di­rected film Open­ing Night, star­ring Gena Row­lands, as well as an ob­scure ’70s Ja­panese depart­ment store ad, which oddly fea­tures Faye Du­n­away eat­ing a hard-boiled egg.

“I never wanted to be a pop star,” says Mur­phy, 42. “I al­ways wanted to be Cindy Sher­man,” she says, not­ing that she has fallen in love with the New York pho­tog­ra­pher’s con­cep­tual ap­proach. “Cindy is in ev­ery­thing I do,” she says. Hair­less Toys is packed with songs that draw from house, coun­try and soul mu­sic, and all of them fea­ture poignant metaphors. The best ex­am­ple is in a bal­lad called “Un­put­down­able,” in which Mur­phy com­pares her real-life part­ner— Mi­lanese pro­ducer Se­bas­tiano Prop­erzi—to an epic novel she wants to crawl in bed with. On a track called “Gone Fish­ing,” she sings of the deep con­nec­tion she has to the drag per­form­ers fea­tured in the doc­u­men­tary Paris Is Burn­ing. In the song, she croons about hav­ing “an un­com­mon sense so beau­ti­fully dressed” and an ex­pe­ri­ence she de­scribes as “a mo­ment of re­al­ness I fear I could be fear­less.” Mur­phy says this bond she has to the cos­tumed queens of Har­lem re­flects her own con­nec­tion with fans. “When my au­di­ence is able to look at me and see that, in one mo­ment, there is all this flam­boy­ance, light, sparkle, beauty and joy yet there is also all this pain, com­plex­ity and depth, that’s when my per­for­mance works. That is when we rec­og­nize each other.”

EDITOR: ELIO IANNACCI

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