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It’s hard to know true peace if you haven’t felt war. When asked what color best represents his debut album, VICTORY, Cian Ducrot says, “Blue and the sea represent [the album] the most. It’s peaceful.” On the album cover, Cian stands atop wooden panels in the ocean, with his head back as he closes his eyes in peace. It’s the first unlaboured breath after having been gasping for air in the water for so long. The album starts with “Victory,” but it takes listeners through all the clawing, scratching, and bleeding to make his way up the platform. It exposes the monsters lurking in the depths of the sea who just won’t leave, the people rolling away in the frothing waves, the rocks that both save and break. It’s violent. Peace and war reside in the same welling water - two parts that can’t be separated.
One of the most noticeable things about VICTORY sonically are the rises and falls. Many of the songs swell and surge. Sometimes the sound quickly sinks, and even slips. In some tracks, the sound is steady, almost like you could float on it. In “Step Dad” he sings, “Watching us fall, watching us cry, watching us conquer." Listening to the album is watching it too. Cian shares, “The difference between those who can achieve and those who can’t, is those who stick around long enough and maintain that self-belief. Your mind doesn’t want you to think that way - it sabotages you. You just have to convince yourself otherwise. The doubts don’t actually mean anything. The reaction should always be to go against it straight away.” If you move in the same direction as a wave, it will take you with it and control you. If you move opposite it, headfirst into it, you can escape under it. A lot of the album is fighting feelings within himself and not letting them have control over him.
When asked what young Cian would think about his success, he says, “I think he would be like, ‘I told you so!’ Young me is always the me I try to tap into when I lose belief in myself. He was so crazy - he was NOT chill. He would be like, ‘Yeah I knew it!’ He had an innate belief in himself as a child despite his childhood being a war zone. He writes on Instagram about his album, “My dad was very abusive growing up, both physically and sexually, my mother fought extremely hard to protect my brother and I, and to get us away from him…it seemed like everything required years of fighting and perseverance.” The album starts in childhood - from the very beginning - with “Victory” opening with the sound of a baby babbling and singing. He sings, “Am I just the product of a boy who wasn't loved by his father? / Spent my life chasing praise, just to end up a monster / I got a note from my doctor, he said to not even bother / 'Cause when you're messed up as a kid, you'll pass it on to your daughter.” “Heaven” also starts in childhood with his brother, who protected him. This track swells, backed by a choir and strings. “I’ll be Waiting” is similar sonically in the way it rises and falls rapidly. At the trough, he sings, “Guess with all the climbing, you're tired, and you fell out of love / Maybe if you don't crash the landing / You'll end up right back where I'm standing.”
There have been many times Cian hasn’t crashed the landing and fallen to his knees. He recalls the time when he dropped out of college and moved back to Ireland then London. He says, “I had been trying to achieve this goal for so many years. I felt like I was getting nowhere. I remember sitting in a café at this big long table with a bunch of other strangers and I was just crying. I was in a really bad place and felt like I was wasting my time on something that was never going to work out. I spoke to my mom and she said, ‘when things are hard and when you don’t know how you're going to do it, you make it happen because there’s no other choice.’ I just decided that this is what I needed to do.” So he clawed his way up, tooth and nail.
I spoke to my mom and she said, ‘when things are hard and when you don’t know how you're going to do it, you make it happen because there’s no other choice.'
HEAVEN by CIAN DUCROT
“Him” and “Heaven” feel like a collision before the steady stream of “How Do You Know.” "Him" starts slow on the piano, and ascends into a choir of voices that later sound like they are sinking. Cian worked with Producer Tristan Salvati on the album in Paris, and says, “he’s French so it was nice because I could do my own thing in terms of writing. I hate when people get too involved and start trying to write my song - I’m like, please just shut up and sit in the corner and I’ll ask you for help if I need it. Tristan is an amazing producer, but since he’s not an English speaker, he lets me do my thing.” There’s a feeling in the production that expresses Cian’s lyrics in a language that is universal. In terms of production, Cian says there was a deliberate decision to keep “All For You” stripped back; “On TikTok, the stripped back performs really well - it connects artists to fans much easier and you’re really up close. I’d see artists producing up their songs, and people will be like, ‘why didn’t you release the one you teased?’” Given how vulnerable Cian is in this album, he knows the power in both stripping back and layering, and more importantly, in how they work together. On the album front, he stands dressed in layers and on the album’s back, he stands completely bare. It’s a visual that describes VICTORY perfectly.
The midpoint songs of the album “Step Dad” and “Mama” feel the most touching - the most like a conquest. “Step Dad” is quick and almost rap-like at points. He sings, “So, as I've grown up / I see the man I am, I see the man he is, see a man I love / Based on one who doesn't even know he raised me up / I hope I can show, shot to the gut, drenched in the flood / When all is said and done / You'll always have my love / I know I'm not a part of you / But what's blood? / You love me in a way, that's deeper in these veins / Than blood could ever stain / And that's where you'll remain.” The song feels the way it sounds, both musically and lyrically, like being drenched in the flood and shot to the gut, but in a good way. When asked about his musical influences, Cian shares, “I listen to a lot of rap so I’m inspired in a different way - like Jack Harlow and Stormzy. The process for me is weird because sometimes something just falls out.” “Step Dad” and “Mama” both feel like the music just poured out.
“Mama” pours out and slips away from him. It’s a song and a story he can’t even fully grasp, as he sings, “I wish I had a verse with some better words / Wish I had a hope that you've never heard / Wish one day that you wouldn't hurt / 'Cause mama, you give me the world / I wish I had a way with some better rhymes / But I still can't say what I can't find.” It feels like he’s grabbing her hand and it just keeps slipping out. Like in “Him,” voices drown in and out. Cian is natural at being honest and vulnerable, even when he can’t even express it fully. He says, “It’s been natural for me to be vulnerable. I say this with care, but I don’t think I’m that good at writing lyrics. I can only write stuff that I would say, and I speak in a certain way. I had to become really honest because it’s the only way I know how to write good songs.” And sometimes he writes things he can’t even say as he continues, “There’s a lot of honesty within the album that I never spoke about before with my listeners, but also with my family. I should probably work on being able to say things in real life, and not have to put them in a song.”
I should probably work on being able to say things in real life
The back half of the album mostly focuses on what has slipped away and how that past affects you. It feels like he’s reached a higher vantage point and looks down at the violent waters. Starting with “Hurt When You Hurt Me,” about a lost relationship, he sings, “You were meant to be the one to say I do / After something old and something blue / All I borrowed was my time.” “Blame It On You” is equally reflective as he sings, “I guess I should thank you for dragging us under / You tore us apart but we ended up stronger / And we’ll blame it on you, blame it on you, blame it on you.” Sonically, “Endless Nights,” and “Everyone Who Falls In Love (Has Someone Else They’re Thinking Of)” feel most experimental. They introduce new sounds to the album, with “Endless Nights” sounding distinctly Irish and “Everyone Who Falls In Love (Has Someone Else They’re Thinking Of)” sounding rock-like. They are like fresher air carrying a whistling wind. They are crisp and clear.
The final track, “Thank God You Stayed” sounds the most like a victory. It’s the final sigh of relief at the top of the platform. The album ends with lyrics, “Thank god you- oh, you hold me down / I've never known someone I can call home / Someone I can call home / Oh, you lift me up / I've never known someone I can call home / Someone I can call home / Thank god you- thank god you stayed / Thank god you- thank god you stayed.” But despite finding home and sitting in the calm at the end of the album, Cian is used to the water’s sway. He says, “I get super bored very easily when I’m not doing music. I find it really hard to not be in the world of music or performing and all over the place. I love being busy. It’s my normal life now though so I’m not sure it’s an ‘escape.’ But I don’t like the mundane, I like the crazy weirdness. It also doesn’t feel real though. Sometimes I feel like, when this is done, that's it, but hopefully it’ll go for the next 60 years.”
Cian is now on tour through December. Tickets can be found here.
ALL FOR YOU by CIAN DUCROT
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