Diana Ross is back, with her first new music in 15 years. It’s a song called Thank You, the title song of a new album slated for September, which will be her first fully original studio set this century. And while it might not represent an assault classic to match its best moments, with a title like this, it would be rude not to express some gratitude just for the ’77 pop legend. years to be in action again.
Although named “Woman Artist of the Century” by Billboard magazine in 1976, Ross hasn’t really been the toughest woman in show business for decades. She tours regularly in the United States but has released only two new albums since 1999. Mary Wilson complained that Ross’s intractable demands made a controversial reunion of Motown classic girl group The Supremes impossible, and ever since. Wilson’s death in March of last year, Ross is now the only Supreme left standing.
It was clear that she had been preparing for something for a while. Ross is said to have occupied the legendary Sunday afternoon spot at Glastonbury’s 50e anniversary in 2020 without the Covid pandemic. Instead, it turns out she recorded new music in her home studio during the lockdown, presumably at her five-acre mansion in Greenwich Connecticut (although she also has an apartment in Venice Beach, Los Angeles). “This collection of songs is my gift with appreciation and love,” she said in a statement. “I am eternally grateful that I had the opportunity to record this glorious music at that time.”
In keeping with the theme of gushing gratitude, the lyrics offer many thanks “for the love”, “the tears”, “all the years”. I counted 41 expressions of “thank you” in her three minutes and 45 seconds, which might be overkill, but maybe she has something to be thankful for.
With a Motown-style piano and clapping intro, brilliant brass and a fluid Studio-54 disco groove, Thank You doesn’t hesitate to refer to Ross’s signature sounds. She was never a soul belter, and the song doesn’t place too many demands on the voice which retained its elegant glide and mellow tone, with those familiar slightly high-pitched high notes and a few appropriate compelling spoken passages. There may be too many coiled scintillating digital effects to mask any wear patina and some hint of dental hissing, but there isn’t much of an attempt to sound up to date with the kids (and we should. be grateful).
Ross has nothing to prove. She was the leader of the greatest girl group of all time, became a powerful symbol of ascending black American femininity in the 1960s, and went on to have a glorious solo career spanning such tender ballads as I’m Still. Waiting, Touch Me In Morning and Theme From mahogany to disco classics Love Hangover, Upside Down and the ’80s monster, Chain Reaction, produced by the Bee Gees. Although her chart appeal eventually waned and she stopped releasing new records on a regular basis in 1999, she remained a huge live attraction. She has toured or given outstanding performances every year since leaving the Supremes in 1970, although she last performed in the UK in 2007. She is due to return to our shores next year, for a postponed tour. And now it looks like she’ll have new songs to sing.
The strangest thing about this comeback song for what could be a final album is that it sounds like an encore. He has the aura of a tour of Las Vegas around the auditorium, surrounded by flowers, tears glistening behind the smile, repeating thank you, thank you, thank you for everything. It’s a sentimental, sentimental piece of show business fluff, but when it comes to crowd-working, it’s clear Ross remains supreme.
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