Rick Astley’s new album, “50,” is hardly taking the world by storm but might be taking it by a moderate breeze. Unfortunately, it is yet another album named after a two-digit number, as opposed to a title with an actual meaning. The music industry seems to have decided that random number generators can name albums just as well as humans can.
In all fairness to Rick Astley, “50” was not randomly named. He is 50 years old this year and has finally decided to release new music – something on the border of soul and pop. The question is, of course, is it any good?
Imagine, if you will, a grand checklist of, “Things your pop/soul album should have.” Rick Astley has followed this list to the letter. Emotional investment? Check. Dulcet singing? Check. Confusing religious iconography? Double check. Every song is lyrically solid, tonally consistent, and, in a word, good. There are no flaws worthy of complaint. “50” is certainly well-constructed.
Obviously, there is a catch. What “50” has in quality, it loses in innovation. Every song is exactly what you would expect. Most of them are forgettable, while the few that do something interesting (“Dance” comes to mind, featuring a heartbroken Devil receiving the gift of dance from God) fail to exploit the opening they have or make something truly unique out of their ideas.
The album does exactly what it is supposed to do, which may certainly be enough. The question, “Why should I care?” has come to mind frequently while listening, though. There are many talented artists in the world. Why should we settle for good when we could have great?
With that (lengthy) caveat aside, though, the album is decent. It is a success in everything it sets out to do. Its only weakness is that it did not set out to do enough.