Okay, yeah: I was a bit tough on Róisín Murphy for releasing a song inspired by Paris Is Burning. It seemed like such an empty, cliché gesture toward the LGBT community to love her. Dude, Róisín: we love you. Don’t pander. However, after listening to her new album many, many times, I slightly retract that Haterade: you’ve done us all so well. Clearly, I was not connecting with the vision—but I get it now.
It’s because of the videos she has been producing in conjunction with the record. Every album she’s put out has had a stellar output of music videos: her debut Ruby Blue included the very trippy focused “Sow Into You” and “If We’re In Love” which led into the very ahead of its time, absurdist, beautiful, and fun Overpowered videos like “You Know Me Better,” “Movie Star,” and the defining”Overpowered.” There are also other side outings like “Cré ni a forna” and “Simulation”
And all of them are bubbling with meticulous art direction and pre-emptive future fashion, of course.
So where does her work with Hairless Toys leave her? In charge. There have been two videos released for the album—one for “Exploitation” and one for “Evil Eyes“—and both have been directed by her. They feel like this spiraling series of short stories, small sketches of the lives of women in despair due to their assumed mania. “Exploitation” follows an actress who is worked into madness at the hand of various men like managers, lovers, set people, directors, etc. The video plays like a period Lifetime soap collaged together with Dynasty inspired infomercials. It’s all sorts of glam and fucked up. “Evil Eyes” goes a bit more directly with this idea of hysterics by having Róisín play a mother who is a tad bit overwhelmed in her life and unsupported by all around her. She gets arrested, eats fish like a wild woman, and—in a brilliant montage—brings to life incredibly stylized portraits. She eventually lives on in catatonia, looking at her life from the outside. Both videos are set in a dreamy late seventies/early eighties period of bewitchingly ugly hairstyles and overly dramatic pleats, ruffles, appliqués, etc.
So who is this woman that Róisín is presenting to us? She definitely isn’t one person but this idea of the woman who is voiceless, the woman who is without help but is in constant contact. As the title of the album suggest, she’s a sort of nude plaything that men get to fuck around with physically and mentally. She is controlled. They’re totally brilliant little art shorts that make you wonder what a Róisín movie would look like. Would it be good? Maybe. It would definitely look and sound good, that’s for sure.