ALBUM REVIEW: ‘This Is What’ Boy George does well

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First Posted: 3/3/2014

When Boy George made his grand entry as the singer of New Wave misfits Culture Club, few thought that his androgynous frumpiness would still be a formidable force three decades later. But through the years, Boy George never lost his voice – both figuratively and literally.

As big a personality as his well-honed vocals, he still sings about issues, but instead of a wide-eyed innocence and bombastic naiveté, there’s a certain worldly weariness and wisdom that one can only assume was aged through his own embattled public persona. Tackling such topics as homophobia in “Live Your Life,” career regret in “King of Everything,” and religion’s narrow worldview in “My God,” he sings with a conviction that that punctuates his newfound husky, gruff baritone.

Boy George dabbles in orchestral epic songs like aforementioned “King of Everything,” Staples Singers-styled soul in “Bigger Than War,” the harmony-laden country of “It’s Easy,” and the torch of “Death of Samantha,” but he excels most when he pulls out the calypso and reggae that made his ‘80s and ‘90s oeuvre (1982’s “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” 1983’s “Karma Chameleon,” and 1999’s “I Just Want to Be Loved,” among many others) so memorable. Island riddims permeate songs like “Live Your Life” and “Love and Danger” and the Jamaican jam “My Star,” showcasing his mastery of the genre. The U.S. release comes as an expanded deluxe edition with three extra tracks, including the horn-filled Western hoedown of “Turn on a Little Light for Me” and his gorgeous cover of “Video Games” (Lana Del Rey’s pretentious original doesn’t even compare).

“This Is What I Do” is a career-turning point for Boy George, and if this album is any indication of what he does, the good news is that he does it very well.

Boy George ‘This Is What I Do’ (Deluxe Edition) Rating: W W W W V