With last names like Kennedy, O'Connor and Egan to round out O'Dowd, is Boy George's new album his most Irish ever?
Superstar icon of 1980s pop culture George O'Dowd (that's Boy George to you and me) dropped a new album this week, possibly because he understood he's playing to the ultimate captive audience.
Titled "This Is What I Dub, Vol 1" it's being hailed by critics as his personal best since the heady days of Culture Club's signature Colour By Numbers. But what fans may not know is that it's his most Irish album ever too.
Featuring collaborations with Sinead O'Connor, Brian Kennedy and fellow London Irish singer Sinead Egan the new album plays to all his pop and reggae strengths. Every track is a banger and that's because these days O'Dowd, 58, is feeling “more inspired than I have ever been,” he says.
What's remarkable, apart from the timing, is the headline track is called "Isolation," a coincidence that is not a coincidence he says.
Although written and recorded before the current pandemic he feels it has everything to do with how we live now.
One of the album openers is a duet with Belfast born Brian Kennedy, 53, on the light poppy track Things Are Gonna Change. It's a quid pro quo for the two singers as O'Dowd also sang on Kennedy's double CD set Brian Kennedy: The Essential Collection on a track called Christopher Street.
Speaking about the duet this week Kennedy was surprised but pleased by the release date. A longtime fan himself, his memories of the Boy go right back.
“I remember seeing him on a televised New Years' Eve special in the 1980s where he was broadcasting live from Japan and he appeared wearing a wedding dress,” Kennedy laughs. “I was 17 years old and I vividly remember thinking that I would sing with him one day!”
“I've always been a fan and I am so proud we’ve gotten to do a few projects together. He even gifted me a lilac hat for my cancer fundraiser and we raised around €3000. What a man.”
What brought about the current collaboration Things Are Gonna Change and were you surprised when the album dropped?
“Yes. We have a friend in common called David Thomas who is an old friend of his. We were in a choir together in the ’80s in London. I had made a tribute album to Joni Mitchell called "A Love Letter to Joni" and David played it for George and they rang me one night.
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“George asked me to come and sing on something he was working on in London so I flew over a few weeks later and we worked on "Things Are Gonna Change," the track was only in its early stages but I knew it was something special.
"It only took us a few hours and I actually flew back to Ireland the same night. Before I left he told me he’d love to work on something else so I sent him my song Christopher Street and the rest is history.”
As well as an O’Dowd and a Kennedy, there’s an O’Connor and an Egan on board - is this his most Irish album? “Well, of course, you’d have to ask him that but yes Ireland is representing very well indeed (Kennedy even sings about O'Connell Street on his track). His mum is a real Dubliner and the family tree is also Thurles in County Tipperary.”
Critics are calling it the best thing Boy George has recorded since "Colour By Numbers." Every track is a banger. Have you been enjoying it?
"I think he’s getting better with age, as Joni would say He’s looked at life from both sides now.”
Talk about having a captive audience for new music, though. It's refreshing to see an artists release something during this pandemic. How are you faring in the coronavirus lockdown yourself? And when this nightmare lifts what’s next for you (a US tour 2021)?
“I’m doing well I must say. Having a compromised immune system from last year's six months of chemo (Kennedy had a successful but stressful cancer battle) has certainly made me extra careful but so far so good. I've had a cold a few times in the last six months or so and my body seems to bounce back quite quickly.
Hopefully, I can do a US tour in 2021 and play some of my brand new material like Recovery which has now taken on a whole new meaning since the virus!”
Boy George's new album This Is What I Dub, Vol 1 is now available for download on iTunes and Spotify.