"Am I Queen, or something else I might have been.
A star, backseat of a blacked out car.
Is that me or someone else entirely."
There is something quite queen-like about her. At 55, singer/songwriter Tracey Thorn returned with her fifth recording, Record (2018) and a sterling collection of mid to up-tempo hip swayers likely more in keeping with her late era output with musical and romantic partner Ben Watt as Everything But The Girl.
With over fifteen original recordings under her belt and an impressive run of genre styles (Everything But The Girl have tried things most wouldn't dare touch) there is something about the song Queen that sort of speaks to the Bedsit Disco Queen's (the name of her 2013 autobiography) right to have earned the recognition and title in her own right.
Not since hearing the return of Tina Turner and Private Dancer (1984) and I Might Have Been Queen have I felt such a worthiness be readily applied. But Thorn replaces Turner's fiery soulfulness with a reflective and nostalgic soulfulness.
There's also a maturity and richness to her voice that seems to deepen even more with age. Still, Thorn has always been an impressive and unique vocal presence on the pop scene foiled on occasion by Watt as duo Everything But The Girl.
Here at The Pop Song Blog she earned the Recording Of The Month nod in March 2018 over and above Ali Campbell's sprawling A Real Labour Of Love (2018) issue.
At a nice, tight nine songs Thorn's Record collection captures a kind of retro analogue-like easy dance groove presence that seems to work as a cohesive unit musically. Fans of her work and her voice will not be disappointed (not the Campbell fans should steer clear of his aforementioned collection).
There is also something about Thorn's age that feels appropriately world weary further inflecting the music that deepens the experience. Check the accompanying video as Thorn delivers a wonderfully evocative and simple performance that seems to work beautifully with the track.
I love Thorn. She's emotively beautiful to me in so many ways, but it saddens me to think that appearance and traditionally expected good looks is so important in today's pop music because the world is missing out on the talents of the Tracey Thorns as a result of such shallowly applied expectations. If you're not a sex kitten, despite often less than compelling voices that accompany those bodies, well then move over. Thankfully this listener grew up in an era when anyone could break into the business of pop music.
Record. B-. A nine track collection that is a slow grower but one that is mostly a more than satisfying twirl through a retro era disco and one drenched with a sense of wisdom, reflection and a sobering realization of age and time and what it means to be a woman without preaching (Sister).
I will say I worried when I saw the sticker on the sleeve of my recording. 9 Euphoric Feminist Bangers. What is a red-blooded American male to think of that? I have no major complaints on Thorn's approach to female self-empowerment other than I feel these things are entirely opportunistic in 2018 and the era of #MeToo and it just doesn't feel genuine particularly with all she's accomplished without the need to identify by gender.
Thankfully, she's by no means a man hater, but, like most today, Thorn happily sides with the endless windfall of female activism and of course why should we expect anything less than the incessant drum beat of pop culture jumping on board these bandwagons. Gosh, isn't everyone a victim nowadays? Does everyone need to live through racial and gender identity politics?
The collection even ends with the perfect finale that captures it all in Dancefloor. How ironic? The dancefloor, a place for all shapes, sizes, genders and races to just share a mutual love of music.
So Record isn't euphoric perfection, but maybe it's a gender thing. But seriously, I don't think so.
Queen. A-. Easily the strongest, best track on the record and one that works as a kind of anthem-like theme to the singer herself.