On Oct. 22, Elton John released his 34th studio album, aptly titled “The Lockdown Sessions.” The album is much like his previous collaboration album, 1993’s “Duets,” except much improved.
Despite being in lockdown, John collaborated with several different artists via Zoom and other means of communication to create this double album featuring Charlie Puth, Miley Cyrus, Lil Nas X and more.
The collaboration resulted in a diverse tracklist. People typically think of Elton John as a pop star/singer songwriter who croons ballads such as “Your Song,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” However, in “The Lockdown Sessions” the music evades the confines of a single genre, as John’s music crossovers into rock, country and even rap.
This album truly has something for everyone. For hip-hop/rap fans, John collaborates with Young Thug and Nicki Minaj, creating “Always Love You.” For the pop fans, the Surfaces collaboration (“Learn to Fly”) is fantastic, adding Elton John’s take on Surfaces’ feel-good style of music. For the country fans, “Beauty in the Bones” (with Jimmie Allen) is an underrated gem. Even for techno fans, the album gives us a collaboration with SG Lewis in “Orbit.”
One of the things I like about this album is the overall flow. Each of the 16 songs feels like it is exactly where it should be on the track list. There are no abrupt changes in volume or tempo that make the album choppy in any way.
My favorite tracks tend to appear towards the middle of the album. John’s duet with Charlie Puth in “After All” features solid vocals from both artists. The same can be said for the next track, “Chosen Family” which John sings with Rina Sawayama. Speaking of solid vocals, I still get goosebumps when I listen to the Elton John/Miley Cyrus cover of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters.” I think the latter song consists of John’s best piano work in the album.
The excellent vocal performances are not the only thing that this album possesses. The songwriting, especially the lyrics, on “The Lockdown Sessions” is brilliant, particularly toward the end of the album. John’s collaboration with Stevie Wonder on “Finish Line” features a melody that almost has a gospel feel to it. The Stevie Nicks collaboration on “Stolen Car” consists of some of the most poetic lyrics on the record.
The album does not have many weak songs. However, I am not a huge fan of the Dua Lipa collaboration “Cold Heart,” which could be because the song is just a remix of John’s previous works with Dua Lipa singing the chorus. Overall, I think these two talented vocalists could have accomplished more.
The same complaint comes for the song “E-Ticket.” When I heard Elton John was going to do a collaboration with Eddie Vedder, I was ecstatic. Vedder is one of rock’s most iconic vocalists, and when paired with one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century, I could have sworn something great was about to happen. However, I was underwhelmed with the bluesy borderline pop song that “E Ticket” turned out to be.
Lastly, we have “ONE OF ME,” Elton’s collaboration with Lil Nas X. Overall, the song is pretty good, featuring the catchy melodies that Lil Nas X has become known for. However, I do not understand why it appears on this album. The only contribution Elton makes is on the piano, making me question why it is on an album named for Elton John.
Out of 10 stars, this record scores a solid six. “The Lockdown Sessions” is by no means a “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” or “Madman Across the Water,” but at the same time, it holds up better against some of John’s less successful albums like “Victim of Love” and “Leather Jackets.”
Ultimately, Elton John’s “The Lockdown Sessions” proves that despite turning 74 this year, the Rocketman is still culturally relevant, and his record producing game is as strong as it ever was.