Imogen Stirling tells the stories that many of us have experienced but don’t speak about.
Love The Sinner is the first album from Scottish playwright, poet, and singer-songwriter Imogen Stirling. This is the quickest I have ever become engrossed and been able to grasp the lyrics and concepts in an album. The album has 7 tracks which have been labelled by Stirling as the “seven deadly sins”. Every track’s title becomes personified in each respective song. This was perfectly mastered by the immensely talented Stirling.
I have never come across another album like this where there is a complete goldmine of powerful words. Each lyric has had an enormous level of consideration and thought. Stirling’s voice is also very clear so it is impossible not to hear what she is saying. She takes us on a story in each song, building up the image of a person that represents the title. Everyone will find a track on his album that voices an experience that they have had. That’s what makes Stirling so talented, her thought-provoking words have the ability to create an album that will resonate with everyone.
This first track primarily surrounds different political standpoints of older and younger generations. Part of the tune describes how older generations have told younger generations to be grateful for what we have, but are unhappy when we do exactly that. It discusses feeling like nothing we ever do is right. The instance of voting is discussed in this track. When we vote for causes we are passionate about, there is always someone telling us we are wrong for doing so. Yet, if we don’t know who to vote for to make changes, we are told that it would be better not to vote. Stirling has summed up the difficulties of the political world in a modern generation perfectly.
‘Envy’ brings to life the struggles of being a woman in a modern world. The incorporation of things like social media platforms has added to a long list of unattainable standards. Rather than letting women make decisions, they are increasingly being influenced into choosing the lifestyles of strangers. Phrases like “follow me” are repeated. This could imply following and copying what these influencers and strangers eat, how they dress, what they do etc. This can lull women into a false sense of belonging where their identity being lost to people who don’t seem to care. With an increase of this happening, Stirling narrates that some of society are becoming a “carbon copy” of each other, reducing originality. She also describes social media enforcing an “influx of digital love” where we are seeking approval and acceptance from people, most of whom we don’t know. Stirling expresses that this creates a world where we become a “slave to expectations“, forcing a lot more pressure on women in particular.
In this track, ‘Greed‘ is in the form of establishments and those with the most wealth and power. Stirling links Greed to the struggles of other people in society through things like crime and poverty. She has painted the picture of the youngest of our society facing the full force of Greed in the form of “prepubescent villains”. Lyrics in this track narrate families and friends watching on with no control or understanding of the situation. Examples include “she sees her brothers in their eyes” and “their teeth are broken glass, watch them bare their shards and laugh“. While Stirling has given the highest in society the label of Greed, this “sin” is one we all have committed. She empathises that most of society are working to change the environments and circumstances of themselves and others. Though they aren’t reaping any rewards for this. In this scenario to ‘Love The Sinner‘, we have to welcome and accept those with less than us. Everyone seeks a sense of belonging and when we each have little, this little will go much further.
Gluttony and Greed are “sins” that tend to go together, with Stirling continuing this. Both tracks surround the lives of young people and teenagers. ‘Gluttony‘ paints the picture of struggling to live up to the stereotypical perfect young life. Our teenage years are said to be the best, but so many of us would be lying if we said those years weren’t filled with troubles and struggling. We all had friends and experiences that weren’t good for us but these usually shape us into who we are today. Stirling perfectly summarises teenage years as floating in a “sea of clashing vanities“. She also describes how we would often be surrounded by people “preaching politics and boasting philosophy“. ‘Gluttony‘ supports that wherever we end up, someone will always think they are better than everyone else. These are the types of things that teenagers and young people regularly find difficulty coping with. Stirling also explains that we don’t have to live by the rules of others who are “extending the fiction of how to do weekends“. The lyric “is it hardly a sin” returns and supports that it wouldn’t be a “sin” if partying and being “filled to the brim with cheap mixer and gin” isn’t your thing.
This track tells the story of a man, Pride, who is in a relationship with a woman. Rather than a fairytale depiction of such relationship, Stirling creates a story of the mental struggles Pride faces. Specifically, Pride is having trouble with masculinity standards. Pride is seen as “a modern man” and he “plays the role perfectly“. This role has placed immense pressure on Pride who feels that he will find his “identity shattered” should he not live up to this. Stirling narrates that to live up to this identity and role, he keeps his partner close and “holds onto her still like a crucifix“. This could imply that there are also religious beliefs involved. However Pride “can’t remember the time someone just listened“. Pride thinks his role as a man wouldn’t be satisfied if his relationship ended, “he feels shame“. But he also knows it isn’t going anywhere, “and he feels clarity“. Pride eventually finds someone who will “listen” and the track is concluded with Stirling’s lyric of “he just wants to hold him”. This suggests a same-sex relationship. Pride may think this doesn’t fit his “role” as a “modern man“. But if we ‘Love The Sinner‘ as the album suggests, Pride will feel acceptance with this new-found belonging.
This is my favourite track of the album, I think it is one that is very likely to resonate with more people. It paints the concepts of ‘Lust‘ and ‘Love‘ as two people in a relationship together. Lust wants power and control in the relationship, without a loving side. “He wants it, locked in his bedroom” and “wanted her to know he could roar louder than her fear” are powerful words that prove Lust isn’t at all concerned about Love. Lust is proposing something that just isn’t sustainable or suitable for Love, “he offered roses dipped in blood“. However, Love has a different view on the relationship and would rather leave than have the pain of what Lust is pursuing. “Is it hardly a sin” returns, asking if this is a “sin” if it is normalised? Stirling has an influential way of words with this track, observing that society has “spoonfed obscenities” into what masculinity really means. She describes Lust as idolising the “flaming hoops of masculinity” and is “addicted to the game“. This is an incredible track that paints a dark picture of what some relationships are actually like.
In the final track of the album, but the second single released by Imogen Stirling, Wrath continues the theme of unattainable standards. In this story, ‘Wrath‘ is someone who feels the burdens and pressures of society. Wrath can never get it right, no matter what she wears, does, says, or where she goes. “Wrath can’t understand why she’s angry all the time” perfectly sums this up. However, it is clear to see why Wrath is angry. When she gets dressed, thoughts like “don’t try too hard, be natural” and “don’t take too long on your appearance” run through her mind. These are the words of society, who are never satisfied. “Show skin, not too much skin“, and “12 easy steps” add to such thoughts. I really love how Stirling seems to effortlessly put into words what so many people, women primarily, have to think about every day.
We are all trying so hard to fit into a society that never seems to be satisfied with our efforts. This is where I think the album title of ‘Love The Sinner‘ fits in perfectly. Each of us has committed one of these “sins” that Stirling describes. This is why we should learn to accept faults and flaws within ourselves and others, nobody is perfect. I really admire Imogen Stirling for emphasising this, and telling the stories that many of us have experienced but don’t speak about.