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"Third Degree (Acoustic)" by Ivy Ash


As with her debut single "Oops", Ivy Ash fashioned her most recent one, "Third Degree"  in such a way that it could be shared both in its upbeat form which was released on the 26th of last month and now in an acoustic,  piano-centred version which comes out on 23rd November.

I think many of us particularly appreciate songs which are capable of multiple interpretations: it presumably increases the possibility of other artists covering them & in cases like this where the writer/original performer effectively covers her own work, it not only exposes additional nuances and depths of the composition but allows us to apply a different perspective to it as listeners.

I should imagine that the Arts Council England ‘Developing Your Creative Practice' fund which enabled Ivy to dedicate time to creating new material greatly facilitated the development of a song sufficiently robust and subtle that these possibilities existed from the moment of creation rather than being an afterthought, and this new view of "Third Degree" certainly does allow us to explore the piece differently, exposing more fragile and vulnerable aspects of it.

While the initial variant comes across (as I said last time) as effervescent, with plenty of funk on view, accentuating the positive pop characteristics of this project, the new one is much more introspective and highlights her trademark compassion for people needing to respond to the central themes of "discovering your boundaries, taking control, and realising how to move forward". This of course continues the thread of continuity dating back to the pre "Oops" material wherein care for others, especially their mental well-being is central to her writing. It's certainly impressive how she has maintained this sense of altruism and depth of meaning while at the same time switching to a deliberately pop orientated & commercially aspirant strategy. Again, the space & reassurance gifted by the funding may well have facilitated this. Certainly it is also arguable that you can pick up on the deeper meaning of the song in this incarnation as the lyrics are easier to discern against this quieter arrangement & you are less distracted by the dance beat of the original release. I gather that Ivy originally wrote the song is a rather angry & reactive mood: if that is the case, then by reworking it, the passion is in no way diminished: if anything it is more powerful delivered "as a dish served cold".

"Third Degree" has already gained much approbation (such as being named BBC Music Introducing Leicestershire's Track of the Week and BIMM Institute's Tune of the Day) and it would be great if everyone who heard & liked it first time round could give a listen to this alternative reading: I'm sure it would only add to their overall appreciation.

Check out too this recording of Ivy talking last evening to on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire to Letitia George (sitting in for Brody Swain). You can hear the interview by going to this link:

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"Third Degree" by Ivy Ash


Following July's "Rain Again" single, the effervescent Ivy Ash is back with the fourth release of her swiftly developing career, namely "Third Degree" which comes out on next Tuesday (26th October). It's already been picked as track of the week on BBC Introducing for Leicester before it's even on sale.

Ivy was fortunate enough to receive funding from the "Developing Your Creative Practice" project of Arts Council England and "Third Degree" is the first fruit from this, as it was written   during "development and creation" time enabled by the grant.

Focusing on "discovering your boundaries, taking control, and realising how to move forward", the song takes up the baton from "Rain Again" in terms of looking at more profound topics than the jaunty tune would at first suggest: Ivy deals in feel good music but you'd be missing most of her intention if you don't listen to what she's saying and take it onboard. I'd admit that some (huge selling) pop songs sound like a good piece of music with some random words strewn over it as if it's obligatory to set lyrics but it doesn't really matter what they are. Ivy doesn't subscribe to this approach (nor to be fair do any of our other local pop artists: at least the ones we cover in this magazine). This work deserves your attention.

"Effervescent" is certainly how Ivy comes across on first acquaintance and the whole Ivy Ash music project is predicated upon a pop approach to engaging with audiences: a lightness of musical touch, regardless of deeper lyrical intent, in order to draw people into engagement. However there is a hidden infrastructure of steel holding the edifice up. You have read above that this song was planned most carefully during discrete planning time (how many artists get that opportunity) and repeated listens will gradually reveal how much thought and care has gone into every moment of "Third Degree" and then realised by immaculate production. The final commendation is that once this is all in hand, Team Ivy have left sufficient spontaneity of performance and that lightness of touch to ensure that the final result comes across as neither cynically constructed nor formulaic.

That said, "Third Degree" is a clear development of the Ivy Ash sound, moving onwards from her previous releases to give a certain tougher sound to set the defiance of what she is singing about (and the artwork, which Ivy spends a lot of time getting just right, also shows a more serious person). This is by no means an urban single, nor does the feistiness quotient make her sound too much like say Abz Winter in terms of calling anyone out, (there is a high sassiness factor in play too) but neither is "Third Degree" too much like debut single "Oops". Ivy Ash, with only three songs out there so far (though of course "Oops" also came out in an acoustic format)  has already demonstrated an admirable breadth of variety (within a carefully defined style) and this no doubt was all part of her plan. With "Oops" Ivy may well have gained new fans who liked her (and possibly fancied her): with "Third Degree" I suspect she now has their respect too.

A "…..dramatic, bold, and self-empowered.."  music video for the single is set for release in November 2021 and you can pre-save "Third Degree" ahead of Tuesday's release via this link here:

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From the back catalogue