Elton John’s observation that The Lockdown Sessions finds him more as a session musician than the demigod of rock that he is, is astute because it takes some of the creative burden off him while still allowing him to push back. the limits of his own music in such stifling times. .
As well as being a highly regarded knighted musician, Sir Elton John is also widely known for being the organizer of some of the city’s most decadent parties. The who’s who of the showbiz world is invited to grand evenings, with John playing the indulgent and engaging host of an eclectic mix of the best in the business world.
Confinement sessions, John’s 32nd studio album, sounds a bit like that – a magnificent roll call of the genre’s forerunners that is seemingly disparate, if not ridiculous. As the name suggests, the album germinated in the lockdown that forcibly brought its Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour to a halt, leaving John – like all of us – in a spiral of confusion and disorientation.
In a statement about the album, the legendary British singer-songwriter says: “Some of the recording sessions had to be done remotely, via Zoom, which I had obviously never done before. Some sessions were recorded under very strict safety rules: work with another artist but separated by glass screens. But all of the tracks I worked on were really interesting and diverse, stuff completely different from anything I’m known for, stuff that took me out of my comfort zone into whole new territory. And I realized there was something oddly familiar about working like that. At the start of my career, in the late 1960s, I worked as a session musician. Working with different artists during the lockdown reminded me of that. I had come full circle: I was a session musician again. And it was still awesome. “
The pleasure John had is very evident in the way he allowed himself to really step out of his work and embrace sounds and techniques that we absolutely don’t associate with him.
When was the last time the man who captured the angst of a lover with soul in the 90s with his famous’Sacrifice, ‘has allowed itself to be automatically tuned to the point that it almost sounds like a robot?
There are issues with this, but more on that later.
The point is, John allowed himself not to be cataloged, keeping a finger on the pulse of today and collaborating with young artists who themselves blur the boundaries of gender identities. Those who have listened to him on his show Rocket Hour will be fully aware that John has always been a champion of young talent, never hesitating to write or co-create music with artists who have little to do with it. its own sound aesthetic. Contrary to what Coldplay critics would define as a desperate need for contemporary approval, John has a cohesive and substantial body of work that highlights his courageous experimentation with young musicians. Frankly, Elton John has so much money that he can live happily on his royalties without craving validation or the money from ill-conceived collaborations.
Of the 16 songs on the album released on October 22, nine had already been released either as singles from the album or in the albums of collaborating artists. Of these, three singles were released ahead of the album’s launch: ‘Cold heart’ with Dua Lipa, ‘After all’ with Charlie Puth, and ‘Finishing line’ with Stevie Wonder.
The first single ‘Cold heart’ (Australian trio Pnau remix) with Lipa mixes iconic portions of ‘Sacrifice‘with his hit from 1972’Rocket man‘Creating an act that the Puritans will reluctantly admit is addicting at best, sacrilege at worst. Last year, Texan soul-pop-rock group Surfaces released ‘Learn to fly,‘a soft pop dance floor that can see you navigate a dance floor with drinks in hand. John’s reshuffle of Japanese-British singer-songwriter Rina SawayamaSelected family‘is a powerful demonstration of support for the LGBTQ + community, many of whom have been forced by the pandemic to once again hide their identities while being locked in their homes for the duration of the lockdown.
There is also Gorillaz’s’The pink ghost‘, who skillfully combines melancholy with 6lack’s automatic tuning, but also finds Elton John surprisingly firm in this unlikely mix. John’s country duo meets the waltz with Brandi Carlile is decent listening but doesn’t stay with you for long. Disappointing, the voice of Stevie Nicks also in ‘Stolen car’ with Jean. Since the album contains powerful vocals (read: Miley Cyrus, Stevie Nicks, Stevie Wonder and Eddie Vedder) who captured our hearts before the advent of auto-tuning, it’s nothing short of a bummer to have Nicks sound the way she does. Even his collaboration with Eddie Vedder, ‘Electronic ticket,‘is not so much the leader of Pearl Jam as the knight-musician. This, however, has nothing to do with John’s arrangement of the song, and everything to do with Vedder’s inability to distance himself from the healthy timbre of John’s voice.
Why then would the British legend agree with so much treatment of his voice in certain songs is a mystery to me, because if we create his synthetic voice in songs that do not have his mastery of the piano, what is left he? In ‘Finishing line‘, John’s song with Wonder, we get a musical split on equal terms – two pristine voices that have very dominant auras.
John’s observation that Containment sessions finds him more as a session musician than the demigod of rock that he is, is astute because it takes some of the creative burden off him while allowing him to push the boundaries of his own music in such stifling times.
The album is far from among his best, but he projects it as a champion of music and social communities. This is the kid who brought the bat and stumps to the game, and just wants to be allowed to play even though he’s only assigned to field chores, saying loud and clear to anyone willing to listen : “I’m still standing.”
You can listen to The Lockdown Sessions here.
Senior journalist Lakshmi Govindrajan Javeri has spent a good part of two decades chronicling the arts, culture and lifestyles.