Elton John’s Tip Sheet – Music Opinion Page – Interview
INTERVIEW: Last time we spoke, you said you thought music was at a crossroads once more.
ELTON JOHN: Yeah, there seems to be a move into making cohesive albums again, as opposed to just a bunch of tracks. Let’s start with one in particular, The May Street Project (RCA), by a young woman named Shea Seger. By the time this interview is printed it will have been out in America for a while. It’s a brilliant album, with great songs, great production and great vocals.
I: A lot of people are saying that they think the whole teen band thing is over.
EJ: Well, everything in music is cyclical. I mean, the bands that everybody is talking about now are two rock ‘n’ roll acts–the Strokes, who are from New York, and the White Stripes, ex-spouses from Detroit. The White Stripes came to England recently and got rave reviews for their performances, and everyone I know who’s seen the Strokes really likes them. So maybe there’s going to be a switch back to rock ‘n’ roll.
I: What do you think of Macy Gray’s latest album [The id, Epic]?
EJ: It’s really great. It’s well-sung, it’s well-produced, it’s got everything a record should have, and it has her voice. She makes me melt when I listen to her. Two other really class albums are the Gorillaz album [Virgin], which is really exploding at the moment, and the Craig David album [Atlantic]. And Nelly Furtado’s [DreamWorks], which has been out a while, still has great songs to mine.
I: What other discoveries have you been listening to at home?
EJ: There’s an English band called Zero 7, who have an album out called Simple Things [N3K], and it’s really great. It’s a bit James Bond-ish, and a bit like the Goldfrapp [Felt Mountain, Mute] album which is also fantastic. Both albums are fresh and original, and both kind of retrace old steps but also have something that’s really now to them. They’ve also both been nominated for a Mercury Music prize [an annual prize to celebrate the best in British music]. The other album that’s been constantly on my turntable is the new Jamiroquai record, called A Funk Odyssey [Epic]. It’s really, really great.
I: These days are male performers emerging with the same kind of diva status that the women have?
EJ: No, they’re not. It’s the girls who have the balls, like my next subject, Mary J. Blige, whose album No More Drama [MCA] is her best ever. Mary J. seems to be more assured of what she’s doing. You put her and Macy Gray on and you think, God, there’s hope.
I: Speaking of hope, what about Bjork?
EJ: How much do we love Bjork? If Iceland had a Smithsonian Institution, Bjork would be the first exhibit. I adore Bjork and her album’s brilliant.
I: You have a new album coming out this month [Songs from the West Coast, Universal). In addition to giving us some pure Elton John pop songs, in it you took major political themes and made extraordinary ballads out of them. For instance, in “American Triangle,” your song about the Matthew Shepard murder, there’s a great line about bigotry–how does it go?
EJ: “You pioneers give us your children, but it’s your blood that stains their hands.” It’s about the way you raise your children. Bigotry is passed on from parents to their children, and it’s fed into them at an age where children just take in everything that they hear as truth. It happens in Northern Ireland. It happens with religion. And it happens with bigotry and hatred.
Elton John’s Tip Sheet appears regularly in Interview. Portrait: RISKO.
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