Long time singer-songwriter, Elvis Costello released another single this week. This one is titled “Hetty O’Hara Confidential” and according to the song’s accompanying press release, it is “the tale of a tattler who outlives her time.”
It’s a good song however it is not likely going to outshine Costello’s “She,” “Alison, ”“Watching the Detectives” or any other of Costello’s most popular songs. Having said that, it certainly adds some creative lyrical and musical work to his already large catalog of material.
Some fans on social media are saying that the song reminds them of a song Costello made in the early 1990s called “Hurry Down Doomsday.” “‘Hurry Down Doomsday’ esque” said YouTube commenter Toby Blumenkranz, while YouTube commenter John Christensen stated “‘Hurry Down Doomsday’, Hettie O’Hara is taking over.”
Costello took his stage name from Elvis Presley and his father’s stage name Costello. He started playing music in the United Kingdom during the early 1970s and has gone on to make 24 studio albums since.
Costello has made music in a variety of genres including permanent wave, power pop, pub rock, dance rock, art rock, roots rock, mellow gold, folk rock and folk, but his roots were in pub rock, which was developed in the United Kingdom during the 1970s. Pub rock was a “back-to-basics musical movement” that served as a “breeding ground for many of the punk and new-wave artists of the late 1970s.”
His latest release, “Hetty O’Hara Confidential” appears to be a story about an aggressive old-school journalist who was on top of her game back in the day, however, the song finishes with O’Hara stating “I’m powerless and I feel alone… / Now everyone has a megaphone.” Some could interpret this as representing the effect that social media and other digital print has had on traditional journalism, and that journalists are not the only ones with “megaphones” anymore.
Some of the song’s interesting lyrics include “Hetty said if you ask me nicely / I’ll write you up well,” “I’ll peel off your skin like a thin veneer / If someone tells me something that I didn’t hear from you,” “Who’s got your girlfriend? / And who had her first? / Reading her column was essential / Hetty O’Hara Confidential,” “She could kill a man with a single stroke / She is not the one you want to provoke / She named the wrong man in the story she broke” and “She had an unfortunate character trait / The irresistible impulse to assassinate / But the damage she did was quite substantial / Hetty O’Hara Confidential.”
The intro begins with some lower register human beat box like rhythms and for the first couple of bars, it almost sounds like Costello sampled Korn’s Jonathan Davis’s bridge vocals from “Freak on a Leash”, however according to the press release, “Costello is credited with: Mouth, Hammond Organ, Fender Jazzmaster, Upright Piano, Rhythm Ace & All Other Noises” on the song.
While the Hammond Organ dates back to the 1930s, it was most widely used in the 1960s and 1970s. The Rhythm Ace is a drum machine also popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Overall, the song has some interesting and historical retro timbres throughout.
The song was produced by Elvis Costello at Suomenlinnan Studio in Helsinki, Finland, recorded and engineered by Eetü Seppälä and mixed by Sebastian Krys in Los Angeles.
Mxdwn reported on another Costello release early last month titled “No Flag.”