Release Date: Mar 25, 2014
Record label: Very Me Records
With this album, one of pop's most shape-shifting careers enters a new phase. Boy George has a beard on the cover – a dabble with conventional masculinity that's mischievously offset by discreet eye makeup – and inside is a forceful reclamation of his musical reputation. Before the arrests and the 12-step groups, George's music was often freighted with solipsistic misery; here, on his first all-new studio album since 1995, he's got wisdom on his side.
The first studio album from George Alan O'Dowd in nearly two decades, This Is What I Do begins appropriately enough with "King of Everything," a surging, late-period Elton John-inspired power ballad/anthem that finds the newly refurbished (chemically and spiritually) pop icon trying to make amends with pretty much everybody. Boy George has spent the majority of his time away from the studio in the headlines, and This Is What I Do spends the majority of its just under an hour running time explaining why, apologizing, and wondering "What's the word on the street/Have I lost my crown/Or will I be king again. " George's voice, once a throaty, alternately cocky and pleading croon that could melt the paint off of the walls, now smolders at a much lower level, and that huskiness lends a mournful and bluesy patina to the 12-track collection that dutifully reflects the artist's newfound maturity.
This Is What I Do is being heavily trailed as Boy George’s ‘comeback’ album, with every press release and interview noting that it’s his first solo album of new material in 18 years. He certainly hasn’t been idle in that time (packing in various curio albums, a successful DJ career, two volumes of memoirs, the musical Taboo and a reuniting of Culture Club) but it’s no great surprise that he might want to skip over the period. To a whole generation (or two) Boy George is most famous as a tabloid figure, known more for his drug habits, criminal convictions and Twitter spats with One Direction and Lady Gaga fans than for being the pop icon who sold millions of records and helped define the ’80s.
In my recent interview with Boy George for The Quietus, he revealed that it was a review by Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph, referring to "his ruined voice", which inspired him to undertake a restorative health regime. Obviously, he wouldn't have bothered if he didn't think McCormick's assessment contained at least a germ of truth. Enough, at least, to encourage this reviewer attempt to coin a George Rex/Wrecks pun around the song ‘King Of Everything’ (then abandon it), and certainly enough to sting Britain's finest white male soul singer into looking after himself a little more carefully.