Released: 14 October 2008 (2008-10-14)
Overpowered is the second solo studio album by Irish recording artist Róisín Murphy, released on 11 October 2007 by EMI. The album was to be released in the United States in late 2008 or early 2009, but was cancelled by EMI due to financial difficulties on their part. Receiving widespread critical acclaim, the album was more commercially successful than its predecessor, debuting at number twenty on the UK Albums Chart.
In 2006, whilst promoting her band Moloko's greatest hits album, Catalogue, Murphy announced that she was recording a new album to be released in 2007. After signing to EMI in May 2006, Murphy set out to produce a pop album with a heavy disco influence. With a bigger budget behind her than with her last record company, the independent Echo Records, Murphy recorded around thirty songs for the album with various producers and writers in Miami, London and Barcelona, commenting that each of the producers aided the pop influence of the album, as they all wanted to write "the single".
The artwork for Overpowered and its accompanying single releases was conceptualised by Scott King (who also directed the promotional videos for "Overpowered" and "Let Me Know"), and the cover images were photographed by Jonathan de Villiers. The artwork places Murphy wearing extraordinary outfits in everyday surroundings, presenting her as a "street diva" and a constant performer. Murphy wears outfits by Gareth Pugh, Givenchy and Viktor & Rolf in the artwork.
The design inside the booklet for Overpowered features a cryptic assemblage (resembling a flowchart but lacking directional indications found in such) made up of boxes containing statements and quotes, as well as apparent excerpts from the written treatment for the promotional video of "Let Me Know" and assorted photographs. Among the known quotations: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" (Laurie Anderson) and "I got signed to EMI because I reminded them of Robbie Williams" (Murphy). According to Murphy, the photography for the album and single sleeves cost £125,000.
The album was preceded by the title track "Overpowered", released as its lead single on 9 July 2007. Murphy's official website announced on 6 July 2007 that the single was not chart eligible but instead was used as an introduction for her start at EMI. The second single from the album was the song "Let Me Know", released a week before the album. It reached number twenty-eight on the UK Singles Chart. Several months later, "You Know Me Better" was released as the album's third single on 31 March 2008, peaking at number forty-seven in the UK. Murphy announced in an interview that "Movie Star" would be released as the album's fourth single. It was released digitally in the United States on 13 October 2008. However, a planned worldwide double A-side release of the single along with Murphy's cover of Bryan Ferry's 1985 song "Slave to Love" was cancelled. "Slave to Love" has become an underground hit in clubs and raves worldwide since its leak onto the Internet, spawning several unauthorised remixes and extended versions.
In support of the album, Murphy embarked on an extensive tour across Europe. During the tour, Murphy also performed in Australia and a one-night show in New York City. On 27 October 2007, Murphy sustained an eye injury during a concert in a Moscow club and had to cancel several subsequent shows. In total, Murphy performed ninety-four shows in twenty-nine countries.
Overpowered received general acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 82, based on 12 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".The Observer's Garry Mulholland lauded the album as "a sumptuous 11-track, all-killer-no-filler, electro-disco gem" that "sees Murphy striving to get rid of her Big Hit Albatross." He continued, "Inspired by the Eighties proto-house of D Train, Mantronix and Gwen Guthrie, but often sounding a dead-ringer for Yazoo, early Eurythmics and rave-era dance-popstersElectribe 101, Overpowered's bubbling, sensual, and soulful glitterball gems effortlessly tap into the perennial glory of feeling lost and lonely at the disco at the end of the world."AllMusic editor Heather Phares called it "[a]ptly enough for such a pop-focused album" and wrote that "nearly every song on Overpowered sounds like a potential smash hit. Even if this album is a bid for the big time, it's done with such flair that it just underscores what a confident and unique artist Murphy really is." Ben Urdang of musicOMH cited Overpowered as Murphy's "most coherent album yet", noting that her songwriting "appears to be stronger than ever with a consistent style and sound emerging throughout." Stephen Trouss of Pitchfork Media commented, "In a year of low-stakes disappointment for European pop, Overpowered is a triumph."BBC Music's Sonja D'Cruze concluded, "From start to finish Roisin fronts an inventive, unpredictable record. Overpowered spits glitter with every song and could go a long way to bringing back a disco chic revival."
Jax Spike of About.com described the album as "pretty overpowering itself, containing solid electropop music with plenty of funky flavor and some really wild beats, with her smooth voice exuding confidence despite any moments of breathiness."The Sunday Times critic Mark Edwards opined that "[t]he music on Overpowered plays down her quirky (all right, difficult) side in favour of a melange of disco/house styles from 1975 to 1989. It lacks the glam wit of Goldfrapp or the cheekiness of Kylie [Minogue], but it's brisk and efficient." The NME referred to Overpowered as "a thoroughly modern pop album that will best appeal to ageing clubbers." Cpt H.M. 'Howling Mad' Murdock of Drowned in Sound felt that "[n]ot once does Overpowered really drag its feet, but it never truly impacts with the might one could possibly expect from an artist with such a fine pedigree. It's a solid pop album, one wonderfully in tune with today's stylistic shifts and trends." Emily Mackay of Yahoo! Music expressed that on Overpowered, Murphy "melded the two sides of her history much more seamlessly; four-to-the-floor pop belters mix with touches of electronic and lyrical darkness to make one of the pop albums of the year."Stylus Magazine's Dan MacRae believed that "Overpowered knows how to squeech and squelch in the proper places, while touches of cowbell, beatboxery, and the occasional Prince styled riff all get sprinkled in accordingly." Lauren Murphy of entertainment.ie was not impressed, writing that "this is an album that sticks rigidly to a tried-and-tested formula, rarely colouring outside the lines or deviating from the disco/house vibe", but noted that "there are some fantastically uplifting dance-pop tunes here, all launched forth with the effortless vigour that Murphy does so well."
During an interview with Popjustice, Scottish electronic musician Calvin Harris called Murphy "a bit mental" for not including the songs "Off & On" and "Don't Let It Go to Your Head Boy" on Overpowered. Furthermore, he accused her of "cost[ing] me all sorts of money" during recording. Murphy and Harris have since resolved their differences, and the song "Off & On" was ultimately recorded by English pop singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor for her 2011 album Make a Scene.