A lot of us are going through a rough time right now, to put it mildly, and UK-based pop artist Ciara Vizzard can relate. Several years ago, she lost two family members over the course of a week, and a few months later, someone set her car on fire. “I felt so attacked,” she remembers.
Needing a positive attitude adjustment, she wrote “Victory,” a song about triumphing over challenges, to give herself a mental boost. “I wrote this song to say, ‘You can try to bring me down, but I’m still going to get up and still going to have a victory,'” she says. “The song is me talking to the devil and basically saying, ‘F off.'”
Sadly, declaring victory was premature – soon after the song was written, Vizzard’s grandmother, who she was living with, died, and the singer was in an accident that required four surgeries on her leg. By the time the fourth procedure had been completed, quarantine had started, so Vizzard remained sidelined, essentially unable to leave her home. But the message within “Victory” remained, and at this point, it wasn’t just Vizzard who needed to hear it. Today, its release offers some very needed encouragement as much of the world re-enters quarantine.
“I feel like more people can now relate to that feeling of being totally knocked around and working really hard to be getting back up and be like, ‘I’m not gonna be defeated by this year,'” she says. “I guess it’s my fight song. When I listen to it now, I still relate to the lyrics. I still feel the emotion just as much as I felt when I first wrote it.”
“I thought I was breaking on down/But I’m standing my ground/I won’t forget how this feels/Remember that it’s real,” her gentle, comforting voice sings and then repeats in dreamy echoes against poppy guitar riffs and percussion meant to evoke the sound of a marching band, perpetually pushing onward in the spirit of the song. She played the guitar herself, plucking rather than strumming, and producer Nosa Apollo (Craig David, Ella Mai, Mabel) added an ethereal quality to the sound.
Vizzard created a feeling of perseverance in the song by singing in a lower register in the verses and a falsetto voice in the chorus. “I feel like the way the song has been sung, it holds that balance between vulnerability and feeling broken, but also, I’m gonna keep singing because I’m not gonna give up,” she says. “I think that’s what I’m really proud of in this song — the way the song is melodically, it’s a mirror of what’s being spoken about in the lyrics.”
She initially came into the studio with a different version of the song, then quickly decided to scrap it and re-wrote most of it on the spot. “Some songs just write themselves,” she says. “This was one of those songs.”
Vizzard was born in the U.S. to an Irish mother and American father and moved to France at age 12, where she started playing the guitar. Now based outside London in Reading, she studied medicine and went on to become a doctor with the goal of becoming a full-time musician once she paid off her debt. She released her first EP, Fearless, in 2017 and has released four more singles (including “Victory”) since, while continuing to work in a rehab ward at a hospital.
Her latest singles all have a similar theme of conquering hardship and compassion for those going through it, including oneself. Last year’s “Hurricane” is about feeling alone and wanting support from others after her accident, “Is It Okay” is about struggling to move on after romantic heartache, and “Price” is about “recognizing that you don’t know what everyone’s going through and you can’t judge someone based on how they present themselves,” she says.
“‘Victory’ is another aspect of that same thing — you never know what someone’s going through,” she explains. “All of them are about going through something and recognizing how important it is for us as human beings to show each other love and compassion, and that’s how we get through it together.”
Perhaps that’s one of the greatest lessons COVID has taught us — “you have to help each other out,” as Vizzard puts it. “Something I’ve learned is people come at you with their emotions because they’re scared, because they’re hurting, and it’s really easy to become defensive with that. But actually, something else is driving that, and it’s important to recognize that someone’s going through something. It’s jut a matter of showing love and compassion toward each other.”
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