In the latter half of his storied career Elton John has made some of the best music of his life. While John hasn’t churned out radio hits of late at the same velocity as in his ‘70s heyday, he nevertheless has demonstrated a sort of creative rejuvenation which has inspired him to compose a consistent run of great albums, including 2006’s The Captain & The Kid and his 2010 collaboration with Leon Russell, The Union, which was produced by T-Bone Burnett. The catalyst for this rejuvenation, peculiar though it may seem, was when John stopped starring in his own music videos.
Such is most recently illustrated by “Home Again,” the moving, mournful first single from John’s forthcoming album, The Diving Board (Capitol/Universal Records), which was also produced by Burnett. John’s absence from the song’s recently released video, along with the visual narrative’s dual yet opaque storyline, lend cinematic gravitas and scope to his vocal performance. The effect, ultimately, is more like he’s scoring a film rather than promoting an album.
When you’re as legendary as Elton John, of course, you don’t need to star in your own music videos lest viewers not recognize who’s singing the tune. In fact he decided as much right around the time of his 2001 LP, Songs From The West Coast. The one-take short film accompanying that album’s lead single, “I Want Love,” which starred Robert Downey, Jr., not only added gripping context to an already compelling song but also set the precedent for Elton John’s future in the post-MTV video era. And in the 12 years since Songs From the West Coast that John has maintained his celluloid celibacy, he has focused on making the best music that he can rather than making music just because he can. “Home Again,” in sound and vision, is a fine example.
The Diving Board will be released September 24.