Grace Jones may be an inspiration to modern marvels such as Janelle Monáe, Santigold and Lady Gaga, yet none of those ladies can touch Mother Jones in terms of personae, costume changes, curt melodies or cutting vocals. At age 63, the queen of robotic-electronic-death-disco and reggae has found new ways into the pop continuum, not simply due to Hurricane’s wild collaborators (Eno, Tony Allen, Tricky) but because of her own gale forces. Rather than stay coldly cyber-androgynous as she did throughout her ’80s albums past (oh, but that sound is here in “Corporate Cannibal”), Jones now is softer, more lyrical, less clipped.
As a youngster, I spent years wondering why in A View To A Kill James Bond was boning a man. Grace Jones played the androgynous villainess 'May Day', whom according to the writers was 'the product of a Nazi genetic breeding experiment which gave children great strength and intelligence at the expense of making them psychopathic'. Assuming that engineering a race of angry, superhuman black people was top of the Nazi agenda, it was as plausible a backstory for unearthly diva Jones as any other.
Dance music icon Grace Jones has been setting trends since she was a regular at Studio 54, and much of the gender-bending dark glamour of today’s Gaga moment can be credited to her. Jones is smart enough to not chase current sounds (give or take a dubstep bass storm or two) or try too hard to prove her continued relevance on Hurricane, her first album of original material in more than two decades. Instead, she made the clubland answer to Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind, in which she digs deep into her roots (in this case, reggae, New Wave, music theater and disco), reflects on what she’s learned, leans deeply into an older and wiser version of her classic persona…and then decides to throw a gigantic party.
How long has Grace Jones been away from the music industry? Well, the single from her last album was produced by C&C Music Factory. Yes, it has been a long time, but then again, Ms. Jones has always done things on her own time. Hurricane was released in Europe in 2008. It has finally been picked up ….
From the striking Jean-Paul Goude artwork to that man-eating voice and dark riddims courtesy of Sly and Robbie, Mikey Chung and Sticky Thompson, Grace Jones's 10th album - and first since 1989 - contains many ingredients from the pop iconoclast's classic 80s material. Despite the lengthy hiatus, Jones sounds as invigorated as ever, effortlessly morphing from fearsome alien on Corporate Cannibal to gracious daughter on the autobiographical I'm Crying (Mother's Tears). Even when she strays into overwrought moodiness during the disc's trip-hoppy second half, her menacing omnipotence has a way of willing you onward.
Once described as 'one of the great undiscovered countries of contemporary entertainment', Grace Jones's continuing appeal lies in her exotic otherness; an impression aided and abetted by the stunning images designed and produced by her ex-husband, fashion photographer Jean-Paul Goude - that contrived to turn her into a fetish object. Likewise, she herself was highly sexed and cold-blooded at the same time. One could only marvel at the economy of her disdain when listening to the majestic put-down of a male suitor - 'nipple to the bottle, never satisfied' - delivered by a figure who resembled an androgynous alien cast in black steel.
Aunspoken etiquette exists for the rock star who re-emerges after a long period out of the limelight. Their rehabilitation is dependent on them appearing chastened, humbled and educated by their wilderness years. They should be modest about their successes and sanguine about their failures. They are expected to have conquered their demons and to see a lot of their former selves in Amy Winehouse.
Hurricane is the 10th studio album from singer/model/actress Grace Jones and her first record since 1989’s Bulletproof Heart. Emerging from a two-decade hiatus, the 63-year-old icon shows little sign of rust or wear; her husky voice and ear for dance rhythms are as sharp as they were at the height of her post-disco success. If anything, her celebrated edginess has sharpened with time.
I’m still a teenager, and I don’t know much about Grace Jones—what I do know about her comes mostly from name-dropping in Lady Gaga interviews and America’s Next Top Model—but I think that qualifies me as a member of the target audience for Hurricane Dub, the reworked version of her latest “comeback album,” Hurricane, from 2008. After all, Studio 54 is over and its regulars probably aren’t rocking a whole lot of dance albums, so Jones’ return to the pop arena—if it’s not an attempt to usurp Gaga and Bey—must aim to entice young club-going listeners. With its deep, deep, deep psycho-dub echoes, sparse but rich vocals and brazenly avant-garde Jonesiness, it has a shot at conquering the pop charts of far outer space.