Fifty years ago, The Beatles broke onto the scene with their debut album, Please Please Me. The rest was history for the Fab Four—John, Paul, George and Ringo. Of the four Brits, Paul McCartney undoubtedly has gone on to the most successful solo career, pumping out hit album after hit album. With the release of his latest, New, Sir Paul expertly synthesizes all that audiences love from his classic style with the sounds that define contemporary music today. The result is predictably splendid.
What more could one man sing about after consistently writing music for more than half a century? McCartney’s songs have always seemed to focus on the beauty of women and his desire for love. This hasn’t entirely changed, with more than a few tracks on New still somehow suggesting his adoration for females. But on the album’s single, “New,” McCartney sings of his current reflections: “All my life / I never knew / What I could be, what I could do / Then we were new.” The man who has it all still doesn’t have it all figured out. New is the overarching work that encompasses this idea. Despite having lived a long, eventful life, McCartney acknowledges that there is and always will be new things to explore.
McCartney’s musical genius is easy to recognize on New, as he finds many ways to blend modern sounds with classic elements that made The Beatles what they were. The sudden arpeggiating synthesizer in “Looking at Her” and the upbeat, distorted guitar riffs in “Save Us” aren’t anything you would have heard on a McCartney album a few years ago. Nevertheless, it demonstrates his uncanny knack for integrating fresh ideas into his songs while holding onto all of his well-known, preexisting sounds.
In a writing sense, Paul hasn’t changed a bit. The same cannot be said for his vocal ability. It’d be beyond outrageous to assume that any musician could preserve his voice after decades of writing and touring. On New, most of his lyrics are sung conservatively, lacking the range that McCartney used to be able to show off. However, this is just about the album’s only criticism.
No Paul McCartney album would be complete without some sort of reference to his late and great friend, John Lennon. In true Beatles fashion, “Early Days” is a beautiful ballad comprised of melodious acoustic strumming with McCartney crooning about the true early days with Lennon, before The Beatles. The sentiment created from the lyrics results in a chilling experience for the listener. He reminisces: “Two guitars across our backs / We would walk the city roads / Seeking someone who would listen to the music / That we were writing down at home.” McCartney puts his heart and soul into this track, singing with an unprecedented vocal range—unique when compared to the rest of New. Of course, if there were to be a song to go all out on, “Early Days” would be the only choice.
It’s both surprising and unsurprising that Sir Paul still has the ability to create beautiful music. While New seems blandly named, it says all that it needs to say about the album. New meets old, things change, things stay the same. But one thing is for sure: Paul McCartney will be rocking till the day he dies.
4.5 out of 5 stars