Before Fire Within, I remembered Jasmine van den Bogaerde aka Birdy as the fifteen-year old singer and musician who covered Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” for the lead single of her self-titled debut album, which was released at around the same time that Ed Sheeran released his major label debut two years and on the same label too. Apart from “Skinny Love”, I didn’t really pay attention to Birdy’s debut album – her cover version of “Skinny Love” was blindingly brilliant but her audiences didn’t even realise that the single wasn’t an original and I think that’s why I lost interest.
However foolish (or wise) that decision was, we might never know. What I do know is that on her new album Fire Within, Birdy, the singer, songwriter and musician – now just seventeen years of age – leaves no room whatsoever for you to lose any interest. From the captivatingly piercing cover art to the strong lead singles “Wings” and “No Angel”, you certainly want to and have to pay attention to Birdy on her sophomore offering.
The thing about Fire Within is that it is filled with absolutely GREAT songs and one of such great songs is the incredibly impassioned and life-affirming “Shine“. Backed simply by solemn piano arrangements that do more than tug on your heart strings, Birdy compellingly tells the listener to shine because “if your heart tells you to shine then who are you to question it“. Lyrically, Birdy is the voice of all the words that we desperately just need to hear from start to finish on this self-penned number as she ventures from observing our tears, troubles, emptiness and fear to calmly instructing us to shine and wrestle the world in front of us and then to reassuring us that our “heart is strong” and that we will be just fine. Sometimes, that’s everything that the heart needs…
Grammy Award-winning producer, songwriter and guitarist Fraser T Smith, who co-wrote Adele’s “Set Fire To The Rain”, is on hand to co-write the slow-building anthemic “Standing In The Way Of The Light” with Birdy and the outcome is nothing short of a glorious record with which Birdy uses to detail the ever so difficult battle of trying to rekindle a dieing relationship as she sings, “we’ll find the strength this time […] turn night into day […] pour oil in these frames“. Starting off slow with tender guitar chords before going feral and exploding into a resounding final two-thirds of the song, “Standing In The Way Of The Light” has everything in those moments – from choral backing harmonies and vocals to an accentuating string section to commanding drum patterns – and it all comes to a very subtle end that you can’t help but play “Standing In The Way Of The Light” again to try and find out if this relationship is revived.
“Standing In The Way Of The Light”:
As well as the likes of Fraser T Smith and the renowned Ryan Tedder, who co-writes the album’s lead single “Wings” with Birdy, this album boasts some very exciting songwriters that have helped to shape Fire Within into one of our favourite albums of the year. Three-time Grammy Award winner Dan Wilson (Dixie Chicks, Adele, Taylor Swift) is on hand to assist on “All You Never Say” while Sia Furler and Ariel Rechtshaid contribute to the daunting beauty that is “Strange Birds”, but perhaps more impressive that these is Birdy’s writing collaboration with Tom Hull (Haim, Calvin Harris, Jessie Ware) and Trey Starxx which brings to life “Light Me Up”. Maybe it’s the absolutely massive chorus that steals the show for me, with Birdy in full diva mode or the fiery bridge which highlights a more feisty side of Birdy full of urgency and attitude or the unseeming way the song begins and throws you off as it quickly progresses – whatever it is, it counts to Light Me Up” being one of the standout songs on Fire Within.
“Light Me Up”:
If there is one thing you do after reading this, it will be to purchase Fire Within. For fans of Birdy from her first album, which was mostly filled with cover versions (albeit good ones), Fire Within does exceptionally well to reintroduce Birdy as a true songwriter. It is simply no surprise that two of our favourite songs on this album – “Shine” and “Older” – are both self-penned by Birdy and if there was one thing I would say about “Older”, asides the glorious harmonies and captivating vocal showing, it is that you will never ever in your wildest dreams guess that this was written by a 17-year old girl. Every time I remember that Birdy is still just seventeen, my mind is blown – every single time! Listen below to “Older” and do yourself a favour and purchase Fire Within today.