The last time Limerick, then part of Thomond, was ruled by royalty was in 1543 when Murrough O’Brien surrendered his royalty to King Henry VIII. It may have taken almost 500 years and a global pandemic but someone has finally taken up the crown.
Step forward Denise Chaila, the new Queen (or Pharaoh as she’d prefer) of Limerick and the shining light throughout one of the most turbulent times in Irish music history.
‘Go Bravely’ is the first solo project from Denise Chaila, who in the past has appeared on projects with the likes of Limerick counterparts and close friends Murli, God Knows, Sim Simma Soundsystem and Rusangano Family.
This debut finds an artist at the peak of her powers, trading in genres and styles and trying her hand at everything, all the while preventing anyone from boxing her into a specific sound. ‘Go Bravely’ is Chaila rejecting roles, redefining herself as an artist, but does it work? Is this project’s variety and unwillingness to sit still a testament to artistry or the first sign of someone who is unsure of her sound?
Thankfully, it’s the former. The project kicks off with Ireland’s song of the summer in Chaila, a song so catchy and vibrant it instantly puts a smile on the listeners face and has those who’ve never dipped their toe into Irish hip-hop rapping along in unison. This is followed by the darkly potent Holy Grail with its foreboding loops and glitchy rhythm which combine to create an unsettling pressure cooker of sound.
The proceeding nine tracks have their highs and lows. The highs are mesmeric, with tracks such as Pieces – which finds Chaila singing in a style similar to that of early Leona Lewis or The Saturdays before flipping seamlessly back to rapping. Can’t Stop Me and Down hit heights that many artists spend their whole career trying to reach. while the beautiful All That Jazz showcases Chaila’s lyrical dexterity.
However, there are tracks that fail to quite keep to the high standards Denise Chaila has set herself. Ri-Ra, a samba-inspired track fails to take-off, though that may be due to its placing immediately after single releases Chaila and Holy Grail. Anseo is scattered with video and boardgame references exposing the geekier side of Chaila’s personality, but while fun this deep-dive is likely to leave the uninitiated shrugging their shoulders.
The lyrical component of the project is very well composed. Zingers such as “Come in my inbox again and I’ll chat to your girl and raise her standards” on Down and “If I refuse to get in my own way what makes you think you’re special” on Can’t Stop Me Here are some of the highlights.
The lyric with the most impact, however, is “I can’t live in pieces if I don’t know what peace is” on Pieces, which hits harder than a train, especially when sung with allthe delicacy Chaila can muster.
Overall, the project acts as a portfolio of Chaila’s influences, and an artist at the peak of her powers who is more than capable of testing herself across multiple genres.
There are few artists who would have been brave enough to try and mix these flavours, but isn’t not the point of the project? To go bravely where no Irish artist has gone before, to bravely test yourself against the best, not only in Ireland, but the world.
As a debut, and as an introduction, there are few around who can showcase the vastness of talent in the way that Denise Chaila has. And it’s only going to get better from here.