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Boy George reinvents his sound on “King Of Everything”

10 September 2013 39 Comments
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boygeorgeIn our post on “Veteran acts returning in 2013”, we listed 80s pop phenomenon Culture Club as one of the acts to look out for this year. Fronted by the visually outrageous and vocally stunning Boy George, Culture Club was a force to be reckoned with worldwide in the early 80s. To celebrate their 30th year anniversary, a reunion album and tour were expected this year but things went quiet in the Culture Club camp. With over half the year over, rumors started to spread that the reunion project was shelved. This is evidently a shame since the bit of new material (i.e. “Universal Love”) that was previewed last year was brilliant. That being said, lead singer Boy George has taken fans and skeptics by surprise with new solo material. If his new single “King Of Everything” is representative of the rest of his new album “This Is What I Do” (scheduled for released on October 28, 2013), the album just might be his most commercial offering in over a decade.

Before diving into specifics of the new single “King of Everything”, it does not hurt to take a brief look at Boy George’s musical trajectory dating back to his early years with Culture Club. The sound of Culture Club was a hybrid of pop and reggae. When the group folded in the late 80s, Boy George quickly moved away from “conventional pop” and gravitated to dance music. This gave him a dedicated following that was concentrated outside of the musical mainstream. In 1998, he returned to his musical roots in a brief musical fling with his former bandmates from Culture Club on the album “Don’t Mind If I Do“. While this album retained many of the elements of vintage Culture Club, it was a significantly classier and modern affair and spawned some of the best songs Culture Club has ever recorded. After the short-lived reunion, Boy George returned to dance music and also emerged as a highly sought after DJ. The format of the music was not one that was conducive to mainstream pop radio. As a result, Boy George found himself being classified as a “star of yesteryear” despite constantly churning out music. Songs that made the crossover to mainstream pop include “Run” (a collaboration with Sash!), “Amazing Grace”, and “Happy” ( a supremely delectable collaboration with DJ Yoda).  Unfortunately, these tracks suffered from a lack of much deserved promotion (it goes without saying that we featured these songs and continue to do so on our radio station).

King Of Everything” marks a stylistic departure from anything Boy George has recorded so far. It is a rock-tinged downtempo track that sounds like something that could have been on a Robbie Williams album. Boy George sings his heart out in a sonic backdrop composed of chiming guitars, string arrangements, and a choir. The beauty and appeal of the track stem not from its simple melody but from its vocal delivery and poignant lyrics. With a deeply remorseful streak, Boy George sings from the perspective of a “fallen angel” that became a victim of his inner demons and in the process of doing so, alienated the people that loved him the most (“Used to say it was me that I was hurting”). In the chorus, he wonders if he will return to the special place he had in people’s hearts as suggested by the chorus:

What’s the word on the street?

Have I lost my crown?

Will I be king again?

What’s the word on the street?

Have I lost my crown?

Will I be king of everything?

Given some of his highly publicized troubles over the last 25 years, it appears that Boy George might be singing from the heart and from his own personal experiences (OCTOBER 21 UPDATE: In our interview with Boy George on October 18, 2013, he did confirm that the lyrics were personal but written from a third-party perspective). It undoubtedly adds a layer of brilliance to the song.

The sound of this single heralds a third chapter in the career of Boy George and by the sounds of it, it just might be the most exciting one. It definitely goes a long way in whetting the appetite for his new album “This Is What I Do”. More importantly, it will refocus attention on the singer/songwriter in Boy George as opposed to his troubled media persona. We are more than thrilled that Boy George is back with his finest solo material in two decades. Here is a full-length video clip of “King Of Everything“:

And don’t forget to DOWNLOAD the single right here!


INTERVIEW ALERT: On October 18, 2013, we had the good fortune of interviewing Boy George to discuss his new material and plans to work on new material with Culture Club in 2014. CLICK HERE to listen to the full-length interview.


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39 Responses to "Boy George reinvents his sound on “King Of Everything”"

  1. Frannie says:

    Sorry to disagree with you. But I am a big Culture Club and Boy George fan, but I really don’t like it. I guess it’s too big a departure for me. It does sound like Robbie Williams who I’m not that big on. For me, it’s too conventional and MOR. The best of Culture Club had more of sense of fun and creativity. To me, this new song is just dreary and depressing. I guess I’m not a fan of mature and age appropriate music. I like either fun pop/dance or indie rock. It just seems a little bit desperate on his part to be begging for the public to love him again. I guess part of it I don’t believe sincere in his apologies. He just seems at heart quite a bitchy person and this new I”m sorry persona just seems to me a trick to get himself back in the spotlight. Whether you are moved by it depends on whether you believe in his sincerity, I guess. To me, it’s like he’s trying too hard to prove he’s sincere and it just seems fake to me. Also the whole King of Everything phrase really turns me off. It reminds me of Michael Jackson proclaiming himself the King of Pop. I like to see some humility in artists.

  2. @Frannie: That is a fair and well-articulated disagreement. If you are not a fan of a more mature breed of pop, then this song definitely would not be your cup of tea at all. I like fun pop/dance too but very little of the newer music these days falls into that category. It is a shame but it is true. That being said, if you do have recommendations of newer stuff that falls into that category, please do let me know. We are constantly on the lookout for music like that. But that being said, a tired beat of the type used by producers such as RedOne is not particularly fun. I can understand the skepticism of Boy George’s apologetic streak in this song. He has been quite outspoken in the past and sometimes that has done him more harm than good. Maybe getting older has made him more reflective. It is very likely that his music is simply a reflection of a certain peace he has found within himself. I am not sure he is necessarily asking people to like him again. The lyrics of a song alone are not enough to bring him “front and center”. But that being said, I hope this song at least leads to a re-evaluation of him as a songwriter. Once again, thank you so much for your comment. The discussion around these posts, in my opinion, is more important that the post itself.

  3. Frannie says:

    Thanks for your response. And thanking for being so kind. I find Boy George is one of those artists that you can’t criticize and if you do you get your head ripped off by some of his more obsessive fans. So I’m glad you understand that people’s taste in music is personal and individual and it doesn’t make you a bad person if you don’t like a certain song. One problem I do have with George’s recent material is his voice is just not to my taste to anymore. It sounds much deeper and raspier than his older voice and kind of strained to me. This is in the same vein as a lot of stuff on Don’t Mind If I Do, which is not my favorite album by CC. Again, it has the too mature conventional sound which is not for me. I guess for me a lot of George’s music is either too young or too old for me, His club remixes are for kids who go to clubs or his other music is too sleepy and old for me. I”m kind of in the middle. I don’t go to clubs anymore, but I still like to dance and rock out to uptempo music sometimes. So for me most of his recent music doesn’t do it for me.

  4. Frannie says:

    As far as current artists and songs that I like, I really love the song Royals by Lorde. I also really like this artist Oh Land from Norway. You should check her out if you haven’t heard of her. I find myself listening to a lot of indie artists these days. I agree with you some of the conventional EDM influenced pop can be boring,but I don’t like conventional MOR singer songwriter stuff either. I need a little edge or creativity to my music.

  5. John Wihebrink says:

    This new song is great. It is getting so much positive feedback. People live it. I do as well. The thing is though that, according to George, this song is about a wife beating boxer who is trying to get his life together. Thematically its similar to George’s life but is not necessarily just about him

  6. @Frannie: I supposed I am not crazy about MOR stuff. The material on “Don’t Mind If I Do” didn’t fit that standard mold of MOR. Its orchestral feel definitely set it apart. The new single might be closer to your typical MOR stuff but something about Boy George’s vocal delivery definitely gives it a sense of distinction. His voice is different. No doubt. I am a little unsure as to whether I like the younger Boy George’s voice more or the older one. My bias towards his newer material makes me more drawn to the voice he has now. In terms of fun and up-tempo stuff by Boy George, have you heard “Happy”? That is one of his most “pop” tracks in recent years. A friend of mine at school introduced me to Oh Land last year. I need to dig out the new material. Lorde seems to be doing well chart-wise. I don’t recall which song of hers I’ve heard but I am remember struggling to get into it. I will check out “Royals” though. Thanks once again for the comment. As I said earlier, the discussion around the post is a critical extension of the blog post.

  7. @John: Thank you so much for the comment. I would have never guessed that the song was thematically about a boxer trying to get his life together. The parallels with George’s life were quite striking. I appreciate you letting us know. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station?

  8. Frannie says:

    @John The lyrics of the song to me don’t indicate anything about the narrator beating his wife. They mention drinking and self destruction and thinking you are only hurting yourself, but you are hurting others. I took it as someone who uses drugs or alcohol asking for forgiveness. As a woman, I would find it offensive to encourage a wife to forgive her violent husband and return to him. I would hate to think that George who came from a family of domestic violence would be encouraging that type of thing.
    I have heard Happy and I do like that much better than King of Everything. I definitely prefer his 80’s voice. I tend to like male singers who have higher voices so maybe that;s why. My all time favorite male singer is George Michael.

  9. @Frannie: Glad you liked “Happy”. That was the most pop-sounding recorded Boy George has done in a while. He has another collaboration with DJ Yoda on the new album so let’s hope it is in the same vein as “Happy”. George Michael is my favorite artist of all time. He is also the most played artist on our radio station (hint hint: give us a spin!!!). I actually met George Michael briefly back in 2004 here in New York. He comes across as a really cool and well-informed guy. No attitude whatsoever. I guess the question is – do you prefer old George Michael (pre-1996) or new George Michael (1996 and beyond)?

  10. Frannie says:

    I guess I don’t see that radical a change in George Michael as I do Boy George. George Michael’s voice despite his drug use isn’t as different over time as Boy George’s. George Michael does do more slower songs but he still in his recent music does do some uptempo stuff like Amazing. I feel like George Michael kind of continues being the same type of artist more than Boy George does so I continue to enjoy him on the same level more than I do Boy George. I agree with you about GM as a person. I find George Michael more appealing as a person than Boy George because he doesn’t have as much bitchy attitude and is generally more laid back. But I find it interesting that in general the public and the media seems much more judgmental of George Michael’s mistakes than Boy George’s. The public has always been very forgiving of Boy George in its public perception of him, but George Michael not so much even though to me GM seems a much nicer more appealing person. I guess it’s because Boy George kind of plays the media game and does a ton of interviews, whereas GM is more reclusive and not as cooperative with the media giving them quotes that will sell their magazines or newspapers.

  11. johnt says:

    Why do people think Boy George or George Michael would have the same singing voices as they did almost 30 years ago? Ridiculous! Everyone’s voice (male and female) become deeper and raspier as you age and it doens’t make their voice bad – just a different timbre to it. I think this is Boy George’s comeback album. He is sober abd writing great music with heartfelt lyrics and putting his heart and soul into it. You can hear it in his voice. Glad he is back!!

  12. @Frannie: George Michael’s slower songs are still great. Since 2004, his production on uptempo tracks has faltered a little. The arrangements on tracks like “Amazing” and “An Easier Affair” are far better than the production on the studio versions of these tracks. I don’t think he invests much time in intros for the uptempo tracks – which is a shame and does not grab the listener instantly. I think in America, the public has become more accepting of George Michael. He used to be the butt of jokes until he toured America in 2008 and agreed to do as many interviews. He was amazingly self-deprecating and disarmingly charismatic in all of them – this making it very difficult for people to make fun of George Michael – including people who have never really liked him or his music. Boy George is a different story altogether. His personality is very different from that of George Michael in every possible way. If you get a chance, watch Jonathan Ross’ interview with Boy George on youtube. It is the interview he did right after he got released from jail.

  13. @johnt: I hope this is a comeback album for Boy George. Artists that rose to prominence in the 80s had a strong grasp of melody. In this age where the “melody” component of pop music has become largely optional, it is nice to see these folks who really “get it” to come back and show people how music is supposed to be made. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station and blog?

  14. Paul says:

    To my ears, this is a terrific track. Lyrically it’s pretty broad brush – generic stuff if you set it alongside the dexterity of ‘She was Never He’, or the acid bite of ‘Fat Cat’. Still, it’s substantial enough to pass pop muster. (Incidentally, do credit George with a bit of ironic distance on himself. The idea of being ‘King of Everything’ is patently ridiculous, and part of the destructive pride he’s singing about.) Is it such a new direction? Feels like an extension of tracks like ‘In Maya’ from Unrecoupable. No one could accuse it of feeling cutting edge – or of trying to recycle a young man’s glories, for that matter. For me, it’s rich, emotional, melodic and rather melodramatic. Ticks my Georgian boxes very nicely indeed.

  15. @Paul: Sonically, I feel it is a bit different. We could totally see someone like Robbie Williams do a track like this. Maybe its just a production style here that is different and not so much a vocal style departure for Boy George. It will really be interesting to see what the rest of the album has to offer. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station and blog?

  16. Frannie says:

    Most other artists Boy George’s same age don’t have such a radical change in their voice. Listen to people like Simon Le Bon, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys. They may have lost the top of their range, but the basic tone of their voice is still the same. The change in Boy George’s voice is not due to just age. It’s due to drugs, smoking and other abuse. I guess one thing I don’t like about it lyrically as Paul said it seems too generic and cliched. What I wondered is the King of Everything supposed to be ironic and about destructive pride? To me, when you combine with the video which is basically George tributing himself so to me it’s coming across as he believes he really is the King of Everything and he deserves to have his crown back. Maybe that’s not what he intends but that’s how it comes across to me. Just to me in general Boy George has always come across as someone with a huge ego and not a lot of self awareness about it. For me, I guess it’s too melodramatic.

  17. @Frannie: Simon Le Bon’s voice actually seems to be getting better with time. I can barely wait for the next Duran Duran album. I loved “All you need is now”. Neil Tennant has had the identical voice throughout. Madonna’s has actually changed a little bit. It feels a little “thinner” (for lack of a better word). If Boy George had released this track and video 5 years ago, I would have been convinced that he had a sense of entitlement in terms of getting his “crown” back. Nowadays, I am not so sure – but then again, I could be totally wrong.

  18. Paul says:

    Thanks Crème Brulee. Just a websearch to see if KOE was getting any reviews. Agree that it’s a bit different, but for me its an extension of his taste for mid tempo songs with buxom production values (like Grand Scheme of Things). A few years ago his voice had lost its lustre and was sounding wheezy and cramped (More Girls Just Like You). His return to health and a lot of effort in with good vocal coaches has improved it no end. He’ll never have a massive range, but it’s now got terrific power and richness. You might want to check out his cover of the fantastic Leonard Cohen’s Anthem on YouTube. Shame about the drunken, tone dead queens in the audience!

  19. @Paul: It is nice to see George having regained both his focus and pop sensitivity. I am guessing you’ve heard “Universal Love”. I hope that song gets a release some day. I agree that his voice has a richness to it. I will check out the Leonard Cohen cover today. Thanks so much for the recommendation. Not sure what your taste in music is, but feel free to give our radio station a spin when you get a chance. You might our selection. We’re giving “King of everything” 5 spins a day.

  20. Whatever says:

    I think its a great song…I for one didn’t expect at 50 and years of living that Boy George Would still sound 22, or still singing about tumbling for someone or about funky little lizards. This is the words and sound of a Mature Boy George who has came along way in his life and has experienced other things in his life since his earlier songs and has more to say…I loved it And fortunaly we all can turn back the hands or times thanks too social media and set back and enjoy the great music that Culture Club entertained us with..I think Boy George and Culture Club don’t get no where near the respect and appreciation that they deserve..

  21. @Whatever: Thanks so much for the comment. I have to admit a part of me is a little disappointed that this year’s Culture Club reunion has not materialized. New material from the entire band would have been great – in addition to new solo material by Boy George. Wishful thinking on my part! Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station and radio blog?

  22. John Wihebrink says:

    The lyrics do indicate a boxer in a very subtle fashion. George says put his gloves down (which of course alludes to his own battles as well). He talks of seeing someone on the stairs, a child crying, dogs barking, and a siren filling the air as if the cops are coming due to the out of control domestic situation. As to whether or not one chooses to forgive a violent person is not really relevant. The song’s point of view is from the wayward person asking forgiveness and wondering if his wife or the world in general (What’s the word o the street?) will forgive him. It doesn’t give an answer nor should it.

  23. John Wihebrink says:

    HAPPY is a great song as well. I like Coming Home too, another good dance vibey track.

  24. John Wihebrink says:

    Just saw some pics George is making for this video and he’s standing in a boxing ring

  25. @John: Thanks so much for that! I would not have guessed that he was making another video for the song. I figured that the one he put up on youtube was the official one. I have to confess I have not heard “Coming Home” but I will check that out today. Thanks for the recommendation!

  26. Spegeln says:

    First of all I wanted to say that I am a huge Boy George fan. I was reading Frannies post and she had some good points and some points that was…not. I do agree that some of Boy George´s fans loves everything he does, whether It´s The War song, Amazing Grace or Karma Chameleon. Sure the voice has changed. Is it better? Maybe It isn’t but George is a better singer. I know it sounds like a contradiction but the last years has proven George to be an amazing blues singer. Just listen to River man, the Nick Drake Cover he did with Nigel Kennedy. It´s dark, soulful, bluesy and one of the best vocal performance from George in a long time. The only thing I don´t like with the latter days voice is that he tends to overuse his vibrato a bit otherwise he sounds amazing for being over 50, has asthma and used to smoke like a mad man and snort his own weight in coke.
    The comment about Simon Le Bon´s voice just made me laugh. I mean I love Duran Duran, Simon is cool as f%”k but he was never really a good singer was he? Just listen to Do they know It´s christmas…George looked like hell, jumped a plane from New York, did a couple of takes, nailed it. While the other popstars spent the whole day “trying not to be afraid”…
    I think King of Everything is really good, timeless production with a hint of the 70´s. Not overproduced, his voice sounds great. Boy George is just a survivor, a true pop star!

  27. @SpegelnL Boy George’s voice is not identical to the one he showcased back in the early days of Culture Club. It is a different voice and a good one! I agree that he’d be a fantastic blues singer. I have to confess I have not heard his version of “River man”. I need to check it out. His voice especially works on “Universal Love” – a new track he performed with Culture Club in Sydney over a year ago.

    The thing about Simon LeBon is that his voice was not at its best in the heyday of Duran Duran. His only started to shine vocally on the “Wedding album” – with songs like “Breath after Breath” and “Come Undone”. A comparison between Simon LeBon and Boy George in terms of their vocal competency may not be a fair one since their voices are suited to different types of music. Please check out “Nobody KNows” by Simon Lebon. It might change your perception of his voice.
    I agree that King of Everything is good – although I really hope he puts out more tracks like “Happy”. That one was infectious! Thanks so much for your comment. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station and blog? Please do let us know!

  28. Spegeln says:

    I found this lovely place when I was looking for reviews of This is what I do and King of everything. I am really impressed that you guys give answers and comments to all these various opinions. You are doing a wonderful job! I now consider myself a fan..! Keep up the good work!

  29. @Spegeln: We think that the conversation that happens around a review or blog post is more than important than the post itself. We’ve always wanted to publish material that triggers conversation of the type we’ve had on this page. We hope you get a chance to give our radio station a spin. We feature an eclectic “mixed bag” but all of it is very commercial.

  30. David says:

    I love the new single ‘King Of Everything’. Part of the appeal for me as far as George is concerned is his clever songwriting and ability to perform many genres of music and to do them very well. Everyone seems to want another Karma Chameleon. There are so many great tracks ignored by the media over the years and an equal amount of very well written, great catchy tunes never released. In my opinion he is an excellent songwriter. The new album from what I’ve heard sounds great. Ive heard part of ‘Love And Danger’, ‘Nice And Slow’ and ‘Play Me’ and they sound fantastic. His best work in a long time as far as I am concerned. And I think anyone who can turn their life around for a second time after going through so much (self inflicted some of it may have been but I’ve yet to meet a perfect human being) – i believe him to be a true inspiration and an absolute national treasure. One of the ‘few’ interesting musical artists around who actually got where he got – and still is – thru sheer determination, hard work and originality. I for one hope he finally gets the recognition he deserves for his talents now.

  31. @David: Thank you so much for the comment! The funny thing is we here aren’t even big fans of “Karma Chameleon”. Songs by Boy George/Culture Club that really do it for us are “Cold Shoulder”, “See Thru”, “Strange Voodoo”, “Time”, “Happy”,”Run”,and “Victims”. We play all of these fairly often. Any insight into what the new tracks sound like? Feel free to comment here and give us a sense of what the songs sound like – since we here haven’t heard any of the tracks yet besides “King Of Everything”. We would love to see more material by Boy George and Culture Club.

  32. John Wihebrink says:

    I agree that Karma Chameleon isn’t one of George’s best songs but it served it’s purpose. It’s a commercial sing along type song that is fun. When it came out, it was alive and hugely popular. He is a great song writer of course. Some of his best songs are on Cheapness and Beauty, like Unfinished Business, If I Could Fly, Funtime (although he didn’t write it), Your Love Is What I am, etc. Some of my other favorites by George or Culture Club are That’s the Way, Black Money, Mistake Number Three, The Medal Song, Work On Me Baby (pure pop fun), You Know I’m Not Crazy, See Thru, Cold Shoulder, Maybe I’m a Fool, Something Strange Called Love, You Are My Heroin, and many many more…I’ll admit The War Song is not my favorite but the video is totally fabulous.

  33. david says:

    Hi again,
    Yes ‘Love And Danger’ is a reggae tune with a really catchy chorus “Who made the rules that the booze ain’t fun…” and George sounds great on it.
    ‘Nice And Slow’ is a lovely happy tune again with a very catchy chorus. I have heard it with just George and a guitar and it is a very good song. Wether or not it is that way on the album i am not sure. He sang it during a brief appearance in Switzerland a few months ago. ‘Play Me’ is also a ragga tune (if it is the same ‘Play Me’ he wrote a few years ago “Play me, come on play me, like an old familiar song, that your heart makes you sing along, on the radio night and day, like my music never went away….”. If it is the same track its extremely good.

  34. @John: You have definitely created some work for me with those recommendations. We play a bunch of the tracks you mentioned but there are some in that list that I have not heard. I will check them out. I guess for me it is hard to remember “Karma Chameleon” since I was probably a 2-year old when it released. I remember my mother singing the song to herself a lot back in the day.

  35. @david: I am really hoping there is a lot of radio-ready material on this album. We would love to feature a lot more than just “King Of Everything” on the station but we do have a high bar for what qualifies as radio-friendly. Thanks so much for giving us a sense of what can look forward to on the album.

  36. John Wihebrink says:

    The new video is out for King of Everything. Check it out. George looks great.

  37. @John: He really does look great. He has lost all that weight.

  38. Melissa says:

    Did you realize this album has been released in the US now? I loved KIng of Everything which I heard on your station. So I had great hopes for the whole album. But I have to say most of the rest of the album doesn’t quite live up to that standard. There are a few songs I think would be good for your station. I quite like My God and Bigger than War. A lot of the good tracks are at the beginning of the album. The second half of it has too much of the reggae for my taste and it has some weird rapping and reggae toasting stuff. It also has a lot of acoustic singer songwriter stuff that I guess some people like but to me is a little dull.
    The album has its high points and it’s not horrible or useless like some of Boy George haters will say, but neither is it the work of genius that his biggest fans will say. I find Boy George a very frustrating artist. He has such high points to his songwriting, but it seems like you have to plow so much not so great stuff to get to those. He has so much potential but for me he never quite lives up to it. I guess maybe part of it is the overhyping of him by his most super fans. You have such high expectations but for me he never reaches that level. I would give the album 3 out of 5 stars. It has potential if you are selective about certain tracks. I do think it is something he can build on for the future CC reunion. I guess you can’t expect too much given how long he’s been away from the pop scene and I have to give him credit for actually releasing something. So basically my feelings about it are kind of mixed.

  39. @Melissa: My sincere apologies for the delayed response. I thought the official release was back in October – so I am a bit surprised by the late promotional activity around the release. While the rest of the album is good, not much of it is radio-friendly besides “King of everything”. I would recommend some of the stuff off of Culture Club’s “Don’t mind if I do” album. Some really classy tracks on there. Once again, my apologies for the delayed response.

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