Opinion: The Reinvention of Paul McCartney
Is it possible, or even desirable, to recreate Paul McCartney?
W!ZARD News AuthorTweet
Is it possible, or even desirable, to recreate Paul McCartney? Does a popular renaissance lie in wait, or is mainstream success a thing of ‘Yesterday’? After a collaboration with Kanye West and another with both West and Rhianna at the beginning of this year, it certainly seems that McCartney is heading in unexpected musical directions. And it appears to have worked. McCartney has nabbed his first top five single in over thirty years. Perhaps the time has come where he can he can be viewed not with Beatle-induced nostalgia, but as a current creative force. And there’s definitely nothing wrong with musicians reinventing themselves; after all, if The Beatles hadn’t felt the need for a change we’d have never had the glory of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band and Abbey Road. And to be honest, his singles over the last couple of years haven’t been anything to write home about.
Except Paul McCartney hasn’t recreated himself. I began listening to the singles ‘Only One’ and ‘Four Five Seconds’ expecting to hear a noisy, synth fuelled number, bristling with energy, with a newly revitalised McCartney in the driver’s seat. Instead, McCartney only plays a minor role in both singles, and it is in fact Rhianna and West who have reinvented themselves. ‘Only One’ is an introspective and chilled piano ballad, whilst ‘Four Five Seconds’ is a breezy acoustic track. Both of them are very listenable, and much more interesting than McCartney’s recent output. But it does seem comfortable McCartney territory, especially ‘Four Five Seconds’. We’re left more intrigued about the direction Rhianna and Kanye’s albums are heading, and not so fussed about McCartney’s future plans.
Despite the failure of the Second Coming of Paul McCartney, both tracks are definite achievements in their own understated way. ‘Only One’ manages to be both retro and sparsely modern- with Kanye West on vocals and McCartney on piano. It’s reflective and not nearly as clichéd as the title suggests, saved by the unusual dynamic of the retro piano and the unobtrusive synths in the chorus. True, it doesn’t really go anywhere; the chorus does only simmer rather than truly set alight; and the outro is quite prolonged and a bit dull. But it’s refreshingly different, and an enjoyable ride. ‘Four Five Seconds’ is on the whole more likeable. The acoustic guitar makes it a little less static and the vocals take off a bit more. Rhianna helps- her voice is much more suited to this kind of music than West’s. McCartney happily strums away in the background, and his iconic voice is lot within the lush harmonies of the chorus. But again there are a number of little niggles: there’s some odd yelping in the background during the second verse, and the rhythm in the organ bridge somehow seems uncomfortable. Despite a very warm reception during a live performance at the Grammys recently, the cynical side of me thinks that the single’s success is more down to the reputation of the three mega-stars rather than the song itself. As the lead single for Rhianna’s new album, it seems somewhat underwhelming.
We’re left to conclude that Paul McCartney is still Paul McCartney, and despite ‘a little help from his friends’ is unlikely to be a serious competitor in an industry primarily dominated by younger talent. But I think most stars would do well pulling off such successful collaborations ‘when they’re sixty four’ (or indeed, seventy two). I think it’s possibly best to stop now…