By Jacob Gross
One of the most enduring voices of pop music, Elton John, recently released an album called “The Lockdown Sessions.” Made up of diverse features, the album is an accumulation of collaborations Elton John produced over the COVID-19 pandemic. The album includes 23 artists including but not limited to Lil Nas X, Charlie Puth, Eddie Vedder, Stevie Wonder and Gorillaz.
John’s album is experimental and considerably different than what you might associate with the singer. This route was intentional, with John saying, “All the tracks I worked on were really interesting and diverse, stuff that was completely different to anything I’m known for, stuff that took me out of my comfort zone into completely new territory,” according to thisisdig.com.
The opening song, titled “Cold Heart,” features Dua Lipa and PNAU. The track samples the chorus of “Rocket Man,” adding a pulsing synth and electronic drums to the iconic melody. The song is repurposing an older Elton John sound and adapting to the modern age, which is indicative of the rest of the album.
The second track, named “Always Love You,” features Young Thug and Nicki Minaj. The song starts in a traditional ballad style that Elton John is known for. The song abruptly changes to a rap-oriented style, showcasing Young Thug and Nicki Minaj. “Always Love You,” almost sounds like a cover of itself at times. It changes styles so frequently and unexpectedly that you never can feel fully immersed in the song.
One of the most compelling songs of the album is “The Pink Phantom,” which features Gorillaz. The song hits a sweet spot between lo-fi hip-hop, jazz and pop music, giving it a futuristic yet incredibly vulnerable sound.
Several songs do sound out of place on the album, with the epitome of this problem being the song “One Of Me.” Featuring Lil Nas X, the song works on “Montero,” a Lil Nas X album which featured the song earlier this year. “One Of Me,” feels out of place on this album because it is the only song with a heavy emphasis on a rap style.
Another song that is confusing is a cover of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica. Featuring Miley Cyrus, WATT, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Trujillo and Chad Smith, this cover is similar to the style of the original recording. The cover at parts sounds exactly like the original recording, while at other parts it is a completely different style.
A standout of the album, “E-Ticket” features Eddie Vedder. The song is a piano jam rock style, not unlike “Crocodile Rock,” without the ‘80s synth and with a stronger drum backbeat.
“The Lockdown Sessions” is an incredibly diverse album that wants to attempt seemingly every genre. While I do think the album is compelling, it has a chance of sounding like a playlist curated by that one friend who desperately wants people to know that “they listen to all kinds of music.”
With that said, Elton John has nothing left to prove. If he wanted to prove he could produce a rap or country album, he would’ve. Instead, “The Lockdown Sessions,” offers a diverse blend of musical styles that will serve to surprise Elton John fans and non-Elton John fans alike.
Jacob Gross is a writer for The Alabamian. He is an English major with a creative writing minor. He has played guitar for a few years and really enjoys painting even though he believes he is bad at it.