Boy George is releasing a new album on 28 October. This is his first new album since 2010's Ordinary Alien, which itself was the first new album he had released in 10 years. I'm a huge fan of his voice and have been since my parents had to explain that Boy George actually was a boy to me in the late 80s. The more exciting discovery for me was realizing just how talented the man was when his musical Taboo came to Broadway. Not only did he write the mostly original score--a few Culture Club songs were used to fully explore the rise of Boy George and club culture in the 80s--he performed in the show as Leigh Bowery and slayed it live onstage ever night. Taboo is the show that made me realize how much I wanted to start writing for theater. I never realized you could take something so personal about yourself and turn it into something so open and inviting for a wide audience. The short run on Broadway didn't matter; Boy George found an audience for his story because his music was so honest and inviting.
The first single from the upcoming This Is What I Do is called "King of Anything" and it's an incredible song. There's no other way to describe. It's a moment of self-reflection delivered with a mature voice and excellent understanding of vocal performance. It's the kind of song and performance that can only come from spending a lifetime dedicated to music. Say what you will about his personal life. Boy George has always been and will always be a true artist.
Part of the intrigue of the song is the montage of photos and videos of his early career. Boy George is singing to his younger self about all of his regrets and dreams. He apologizes and praises himself in equal measure. He admonishes himself for what he did to himself assuming it hurt no one but himself without realizing the damage he was actually doing to himself.
The chorus is a bit more of a universal message, as good choruses often are. Instead of internalizing this struggle to something so personal, he sends his questions and doubts out to the world. "What's the word on the street?" is a question all of us ask about ourselves in different ways. Whenever we possess self doubt, whenever we concern ourselves with what other people think of ourselves, we're inviting the world in to take control of our lives. We're saying it's okay to let our valuation of ourselves be determined entirely by what other people think. It's a harmful mindset driven by a desire to prove ourselves to a wider and wider audience.
Coming from someone who used to be one of the biggest names in music, it delivers a rather sobering message. No one is immune from this kind of thought process. You can accomplish more in your lifetime than people dream of and still feel like you have something to prove.
In its own way, a song like "King of Anything" by someone like Boy George is positive and important message. The more we as a society hear about other people's struggles without judgment or immediate stigmatization, the more we move forward as a society. We can't live our lives assuming everyone else is judging us without allowing everything we do to be determined entirely by a voice of the people that doesn't exist outside of our minds.
Acceptance starts from within. Knowing that anyone, no matter how talented, well-known, or influential to popular culture, can feel a sense of longing for more in life is a reassuring. It's part of the human condition. It doesn't make you less of a person or a failure to want more out of your life. It's up to you to take the step to make it happen and accept that, no matter what mistakes you've made in the past, you have control of what you do in your future.
Thoughts on the song? Share them below.