Review: Return of the rocketman and the stars at his side


David Shankbone

Photo courtesy of David Shankbone via Creative Commons

by Jenna Prather, Staff Reporter

Elton John’s “The Lockdown Sessions” is a star-studded album that has something for everyone.

Released on Oct. 22, “The Lockdown Session” is John’s 32nd album and his first studio-produced record since 2016.

“This album has been one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done in my life and I’m so proud of it,” the legendary artist said of the release on his Instagram. “Not only have I been able to work with artists who have hugely influenced my music, but I’ve also been able to collaborate with musicians at the start of their career, or from genres well outside of my own, all of whom have skills and talents well beyond my way of music-making.”

The collaborations include a wide variety of artists. A range from seasoned artists like Eddie Vedder and the two Stevies, Wonder and Nicks respectively, to up-and-comers like Lil Nas X and Jimmie Allen.

But anyone expecting an album full of duets and Elton John expertise will be disappointed, because the rocket man himself takes a bit of a backseat on his own album, by design.

The first half of the album features very little, or sometimes none, of John singing. He takes a bit of a “session player” role, as he puts it, choosing to instead use the collaboration as a reflection on his career and the music of today.

He received his first number one in 16 years with Dua Lipa for one of three singles off the album, “Cold Heart.” The song is like many pop songs today, sometimes recycling classic lyrics from John – “And I think it’s gonna be a long, long time, ‘Til touchdown brings me ’round again to find”– as sung by Lipa. The song opens the album and is catchy, but nothing special.

The tracks following show John dipping his toes into other genres and letting other artists have the stage. “Chosen Family” with Rina Sawayama is a tear-jerking ballad for the lost and found, the “Nothing Else Matters” cover gives Miley Cyrus the mic to give her tribute to another band’s classic song, and the country song with Brandi Carlisle, “Simple Things”, is a message to the youth from their elders.

The Stevie Wonder featured gospel track, “Finish Line,” and the Stevie Nicks duet, “Stolen Car,” are examples of John revisiting his past glories through love songs. They are different from the tracks before as they harken back to the style of years before, featuring stars John and the rest of the world have come to know well.

Each track brings a new hidden gem, but the less talk about Elton’s rap song, “Always Love You”, with Nicki Minaj and Young Thug, the better. Not bad for fans of this style, it’s certainly not a bad song, but the collaboration perhaps should be one left behind.

The album is a combination of different genres, artists and musical styles but that’s all part of the fun. And if someone can make the most out of quarantine, it might as well be Elton John doing what he does best.