Boy George

This Is What I Do

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The first studio album from George Alan O'Dowd in nearly two decades, This Is What I Do begins appropriately enough with "King of Everything," a surging, late-period Elton John-inspired power ballad/anthem that finds the newly refurbished (chemically and spiritually) pop icon trying to make amends with pretty much everybody. Boy George has spent the majority of his time away from the studio in the headlines, and This Is What I Do spends the majority of its just under an hour running time explaining why, apologizing, and wondering "What's the word on the street/Have I lost my crown/Or will I be king again." George's voice, once a throaty, alternately cocky and pleading croon that could melt the paint off of the walls, now smolders at a much lower level, and that huskiness lends a mournful and bluesy patina to the 12-track collection that dutifully reflects the artist's newfound maturity. George may have lost a little of his edge, but he's still a commanding presence, even if his reputation precedes him in a way that does him no favors. Songs like the breezy country-soul confection "It's Easy" and the richly detailed, autobiographical "Live Your Life" suggest an artist whose rebirth may blossom via the death-cheating, soulful singer/songwriter route, while more propulsive numbers like "Bigger Than War," which is almost a dead ringer for the Sopranos theme (Alabama 3's "Woke Up This Morning"), show that the former Karma Chameleon hasn't lost his ability to shape-shift. That said, much of This Is What I Do is so mired in rote recovery-speak and murky midtempo reggae (the last six tracks are nearly interchangeable) that it never manages to leave any emotional footprints in the listener's head. Sure it's mature, soulful, and often beautiful, but it's also mostly forgettable.

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