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Denise Marsa’s “Sanctuary”

A mysterious forest scene. An eye-catching woman with a determined look painted across her face. A light breeze slipping through the tall grass. Together, these elements are melded into the colorfully captivating visuals that will comprise Denise Marsa’s music video for the song “Sanctuary,” which stands as our latest look at this 25-year veteran of the game’s most recent musical incarnation. Amidst the picturesque backdrop, we hear some of the most engaging melodies that Marsa has recorded in her short time in the spotlight, but she’s careful to avoid any sort of overindulgence in this track.

Lyrically speaking, “Sanctuary” isn’t particularly inventive; in fact, I would even go as far as to say that it’s a little formulaic. What makes it so unbelievably relatable is the humble tone in which our singer delivers it to us; Marsa’s vocal transforms the otherwise ordinary verses into unedited diary emissions, and in the course of her performance here, she never sounds even somewhat halfhearted in the statements that she makes. She could probably sing just about anything and make it sound like a genuine hit, but so far she hasn’t had to resort to such measures in any of the music that she’s produced (this song included).

The poppiest element here is the master mix, which applies a heavy varnish to almost everything that we hear in the song. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; actually, I think that it makes “Sanctuary” sound a lot more surreal and fantastical. It’s not as spacy nor as rooted in avant-gardism as some of the other pop music that I’ve been listening to this fall has been, but there’s an undebatable cerebral undertow to this single that is made all the more glaring by the way that producers chose to finish it.

There’s a brief moment between the chorus and the conclusion of the track in which it feels like there could have been something there ahead of the final cuts, which makes me curious to see how this player is going to perform her new song in a live setting in the future. She’s got so much presence, to begin with, that it’s hard to imagine her abilities not getting even more attention on a proper stage, where someone who has the level of panache Marsa does could make the impact on her fans that can’t truly be made real from within the recording studio environment.

Though I don’t believe that Denise Marsa is breaking any sort of new ground in “Sanctuary,” her incredible singing abilities make it an essential acquisition for pop aficionados this October just the same. If her last album was Marsa laying out the basic concept behind her artistry, then this track is a more elaborately designed extension of its blueprint, and I think that fans who liked what they heard on her previous LPs are going to get behind this song no questions asked. Her story is far from over, and this chapter provides us with even more intriguing details of who this artist is.

Mindy McCall



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