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Paloma Faith: faith, hope and reinvention

An unflinchingly honest portrait of heartbreak, grief and learning to put yourself first, the singer's sixth album, 'The Glorification of Sadness', is her most personal yet.

By Will Richards

Paloma Faith
Paloma Faith (Picture: Yan Wasiuchnik)

A word that constantly crops up in discussions around Paloma Faith’s upcoming sixth album, The Glorification of Sadness, is reinvention. Recorded in the aftermath of her split from her husband and the father of her two children, the new album is both a musical evolution for the singer and a document of a time that blew her life wide open. “If reinvention means that there’s no energy left to pretend and that it’s just the purest truth, then yes, it’s a reinvention,” the singer agrees matter-of-factly when presented with the idea. 

“You do naturally have a bit of a reinvention when you break away from your kids’ other parent,” she says. “It’s such a life-changing experience. We’re still fed so many ideas about what is conventional and how you’re meant to do it, and you have to reinvent when you go against what’s expected.” 

The Glorification of Sadness goes against what is expected of Faith in a myriad of ways. After starting out in the late 2000s as a jazz cover singer, she released debut album, Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?, in 2009 and became a fixture of the UK pop landscape for the ensuing decade. 

Though that time made her a household name, the singer says she wants to use her sixth record as a corrective to her artistic integrity.  Crediting herself as an executive producer on it is one of the ways in which she does this. 

“I’ve always been an exec producer, but I’ve just never dug my heels in about it,” she reflects. The album name, The Glorification of Sadness, is quite a feminist thing, and it was important for me to have a ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’ attitude. I’ve always sat next to my producer, giving comments and edits, selecting what I want to put in, but I’ve never been credited for it — I just got sick of it. Men get credited for it all the time, and I just thought, ‘Screw that, I’m gonna bloody put my foot down about it.’” 

She adds: “I do feel very lucky to have worked with the people I’ve worked with, and they deserve so much praise, but it’s important to acknowledge myself too. I do quite a lot of therapy, and therapists always say to me, ‘Would you talk to your child like that?’ And I say, ‘No.’ And they say, ‘Well, why would you talk to yourself like that?’ It’s not about saying, ‘I’m the one who did all that,’ but if no one else is gonna say what I did on my album, then it’s down to me to say it.” 

Paloma Faith
Paloma Faith (Picture: Yan Wasiuchnik)

This feminist current runs through the whole of the new album, led by impactful lead single ‘How You Leave a Man’. It’s also borne out by a series of collaborations, including working with Låpsley on new single ‘Bad Woman’. “Not only am I super impressed by her songwriting and her as a person,” Faith says of her collaborator, “but I love how she does business. She really stands up for what she deserves, and I wish I was more like that when I was her age.” 

The core of the new album is the intersection between this industry-facing enlightenment and the deeply personal life changes that were happening parallel to it. “Initially, I was really afraid to go to the studio because I felt so vulnerable,” she explains. “It was so devastating what had happened, and it felt crass to go and write about it. That’s why I called it The Glorification of Sadness, because I do think there’s a strange relationship when you’re a commercial artist and you feel like you are monetising suffering. I’ve written about breakups in the past, but they haven’t been very serious because they’ve not involved kids — you can fictionalise it and create a persona. But this was so devastating, and I had some form of breakdown.” 

When Faith finally did go into the studio, free from any expectations of a new record and accompanied by a group of core collaborators, the story of the album began to take shape, developing as an autobiographical account of what had happened. 

“The album is written chronologically, and it goes through all the stages of grief,” she explains. “It starts kind of stable, and then it breaks down and it goes to melancholy, introspection, wild abandon, recklessness — all of those things that you do to try and get through the healing process. I wrote as I went along, and then I realised that I had to release it in order of how it happened.”

Paloma Faith
Paloma Faith (Picture: Yan Wasiuchnik)

This naked honesty has been as tough as it has been liberating for Faith, who has struggled through the process of writing and now promoting an album that lays out her life as candidly as this. She burst into tears during her first interview about the album, she reveals, and says she struggles to listen to album track ‘Divorce’, which features her children’s voices, and will likely never perform it live. There is, though, an appreciation of what has been as well as a determination to move forwards, as she explains: “If you make children out of a place of love, which we did, then that’s infinite. It’s not a failed relationship. The album, and the children, are something that will be infinite. Our kids will have kids and so on, and the music will continue to exist too.” 

While Faith is wary of having to perform a balancing act between maintaining a career as a pop star and speaking her mind in an unfiltered way, the honesty of The Glorification of Sadness shines through with every word. “I don’t want to make bad decisions and ruin my career because I think that I know better than everyone else,” she says, “but it’s different for a woman as well. I’m a single mum now. It sounds ridiculous because I’m a pop star, but I am also a single mum! I feel a responsibility to have a career and to be happy, but also to generate income to support us and maintain what we have. But I can’t just degrade myself and become an industry prop.” 

The content of the music resulted in her writing a dedication, the singer says. Picking up her phone and reading it out loud, it defines the meaning of a powerful record and the enlightenment Faith has gleaned from the turbulent changes in her life. “This album is dedicated to our children,” she reads, “because through them we will be together for all time, generation after generation, happily ever after. The perfect ending.” 

Taken from Issue 15 of Rolling Stone UK. You can buy it here.