If you Google ‘Orla Gartland’, the first three results that come up are her website, Twitter and then her YouTube. With the 26-year-old Irish singer’s rise to success attributed to her online notoriety built over the past 12 years, you’d assume that she is the Woman on the Internet that her debut album title refers to.
Yet you’d be mistaken – this woman is merely a character in Gartland’s life that she turns to in troubled times. Nebulous relationships, home, and identity crises take forefront of Woman on the Internet, with influencer culture’s impact on our everyday lives merely background static.
All of the album’s singles, released steadily since October 2020, had teased at these key themes for the record. ‘Pretending’, ‘More Like You’ and ‘You’re Not Special Babe’ present Gartland as uncertain or figuring out her place in the world. Slowly she seems to peel back the façade of caring just for the sake of others and recognise that everyone else is also struggling to get through confusing and troubling times (also known as your 20s).
Apologetic that she’s “flirting with the enemy”– assumably a misogynistic culture that pits women against each other – she still can’t help but ask other to stop being competition she feels she can’t even come close to. In an era defined by female empowerment, Gartland recognises the issues are her own but still battles to break free of social confines. Yet with this recognition comes the ability to care more for herself and take herself off of self-comparison mode.
More intimate relationships are probed at too in ‘Do You Mind?’ and ‘Madison’. The former sees Gartland tentatively question her place in a former lover’s life, asking whether the disintegration of their post-breakup friendship affected them at all. The latter has the potentially parasocial, but undoubtably unhealthy, relationship between Gartland and the seemingly perfect Madison laid bare in the lyrics – Gartland literally begs to be other woman’s houseplant to unburden herself of decision making.
Beginning with the things she’s learnt and ending with a song about home, the album conveys that learning isn’t linear
Gartland also brings more musically upbeat element to the record. Single ‘Zombie!’ is a rocky upbeat, mosh-pit worthy track taking aim at toxic masculinity; on Woman it’s stylistically accompanied by opening track ‘Things that I Learned’, as well as ‘Over Your Head’, and ‘Codependency’. Despite thematically being about the difficulty of confronting your own flaws, you can’t help but have a slightly angsty dance or scream along. In many of these tracks you can almost feel Gartland’s itch to get back up onto stage after over 18 months of no live performances.
Towards the end of the record, in the unlikely event you haven’t already heard it, Gartland puts her heart and musical dexterity on the table, bare and stripped back in ‘Left Behind’. The piano ballad’s main vocal line and piano accompaniment were recorded in one take, a testimony to Gartland’s talent. Her lyricism is once again poetic – “An elephant is in the room/Don’t look and don’t try to feed it” is a line that won’t be easily forgotten.
Through each song you can hear how hands on Gartland has been with everything on the record, from writing to producing through releasing it independently on her own record label. Small details – the techy, loading screen style synths that twinkle behind Gartland singing about the “woman on the internet”, the building of tension into an explosion of emotion across the second and third choruses of ‘Zombie!’, and the home video audio on ‘Bloodline/Difficult Things’- all show Gartland has been involved in every part of the process to make the lyrics and instrumentation equals on each track in order to portray her vision.
Beginning with the things she’s learnt and ending with a song about home, the album conveys that learning isn’t linear. Life is turbulent and, in Gartland’s words, “honestly, it’s kinda long”. Working her own way through adult life, the artist brings us along for the journey – perhaps to warn of all the troubles ahead or give us the tools to be able to battle through them.
Woman on the Internet is a strong debut album that reminds us there is more to the people who sit on our screens and entertain and advise us on life. They have their own insecurities, misgivings and complex lives too. Paying kudos to her internet roots, Gartland makes it clear that she is not just the woman on the internet people have pegged her to be. She’s a daughter, friend, musician, producer, and a champion of artist’s creative vision. But first and foremost, she is human.
WE RECOMMEND: ‘Zombie!’