Paul McCartney, ‘New’ – Song Review
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The last time Paul McCartney released a new song (not counting the two originals that showed up on 2012’s standards collection ‘Kisses on the Bottom’), he was getting all reflective. Even the title of his last album of all original songs, ‘Memory Almost Full,’ mused on the passing of time and growing old.
With the mournful tone of that 2007 album and the 2012 set that consisted of songs written by a bunch of dead guys out of the way, the former Beatle is ready to jump back into the land of the living. Washed clean, not necessarily of his past (why would he ever want to leave that behind?), his new album marks a sort of rebirth. He’s even titled it ‘New,’ just in case you missed the point.
And he’s wasting no shots to make that point. The first single from the album is also called ‘New.’ Produced by Mark Ronson (who’s worked with Amy Winehouse, Bruno Mars and Ghostface Killah), the song isn’t so much McCartney adapting to future sounds as it is pop’s cyclical nature making a turn back to his classic style.
Like he did with Winehouse’s terrific ‘Back to Black’ album, Ronson shapes ‘New’ to play along ’60s guidelines (in Winehouse’s case, it was R&B; here it’s paisley pop). McCartney hasn’t sounded so springy and playful in years. With musical nods to both ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ and Wings’ lightest ’70s hits, the song is a dip into a past when pop music wasn’t such a dirty word.
With hand claps, underlying harpsichord and subtle horn (or are those synths?) blasts straight out of ‘Revolver,’ ‘New”s Beatlesque qualities come as much from McCartney — just listen to the way he sings “all my life” — as they do from Ronson, who proved he had an ear for pulling up the past on Winehouse’s album.
“You came along and made my life a song,” McCartney sings over the bubbly rhythm. “We can do what we want, we can live as we choose.” Just don’t believe that title — there’s nothing particularly new going on here. But it’s a welcome return all the same from an artist who’d been living in the wrong part of the 20th century for the past several years.