"When the producers heard it, they were amazed to have something so strong."
The finale of the BBC series The Woman In The Wall just got better, as a previously unreleased song by Sinéad O'Connor premiered at the end of the six-part mystery series.
The Magdalene Song is the first unreleased song we’ve heard by O’Connor since her tragic passing earlier this year. In the series, which aired its finale yesterday (25 September), actress Ruth Wilson followed her trauma back to her time at Ireland’s Magdalene Laundries, institutions run by the Catholic Church in Ireland that housed unmarried pregnant girls and women.
As The Magdalene Song played in The Woman In The Wall, O’Connor’s commanding voice displayed the protagonist’s resolve to survive her trauma.
It’s a powerful ode to the singer’s legacy. David Holmes, the Belfast-based musician who produced O’Connor’s final songs, told The Guardian in a recent interview that while the first half of the song is “heartbreaking”, the second represents “pure defiance”.
“I stripped the song away to just Sinéad’s voice and then let the full power come in for the second half,” Holmes explained. “It’s incredible how the meaning of the song came together with this story. It was just meant to be. There’s a certain magic when you bring music to an emotive story.”
During the interview, Holmes added that O’Connor sanctioned the use of The Magdalene Song before production on The Woman In The Wall had even wrapped up. “When the producers heard it, they were amazed to have something so strong,” Holmes said. “We all felt the only place this can go is at the end.”
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The Woman In The Wall is available to stream via BBC iPlayer.
Sinéad O'Connor passed away on 26 July 2023 at the age of 56. When she was 15, she was sent to an institution akin to the Magdalene Laundry showcased in The Woman In The Wall, and later discussed the damage she and other women experienced.
O’Connor released ten studio albums throughout her musical career, with her final record, I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss, released in August 2014. While she undoubtedly influenced people in music who didn’t fit in and inspired fans looking for a different kind of protest singer, O’Connor was also a controversial figure due to her strong beliefs and willingness to act on them in public spaces.
Appearing on a 1992 episode of Saturday Night Live, O’Connor didn’t care about her image as an artist when she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II and told the audience, “Fight the real enemy”. Using her public platform, she made a statement many of us will never forget in her criticisms of the Irish Catholic Church after clergy members were revealed to have been involved in child sex abuse cases.
After her passing, Tori Amos wrote that O’Connor was “A brilliant songwriter & performer whose talent we will not see the like of again. Such passion, such intense presence & a beautiful soul, who battled her own personal demons courageously.”