How are the world's biggest superstars changing?
At a time when recording and releasing music to the public has never been so easy, it's no wonder that fewer and fewer old school legends are choosing to retire. This year so far we've seen seven iconic stars unveil brand new records - but how do they compare to their most seminal releases?
2019: Western Stars
He's one of the rare few who have remained consistently relevant since their inception with his previous album - 2014's High Hopes - topping at least 16 different charts. Western Stars dropped on June 14th and it marks his first album of completely original material since 2012, and his first without his E Street Band since 2005. It's a very 70s-influenced record, so it remains to be seen how it will fare commercially, but so far critics are impressed,
1984: Born in the U.S.A.
Western Stars certainly maintains that patriotic heartland rock of Born in the U.S.A., but with markedly less vigour. This 1984 masterpiece became one of the biggest selling albums of all time, released at a time when traditional rock 'n' roll values were waning. It's good to see The Boss is still releasing music that's just as American and just as old school as ever before.
2019: Madame X
The problem with constantly reinventing yourself is that you end up unable to surprise anybody, because we learn to expect the unexpected. Her new album is certainly a cultural phenomenon, blending influences from all over the world including her new homeland of Portugal, and featuring collaborations with the likes of Swae Lee and Quavo.
1986: True Blue
She reached peak Madonna in the mid-80s and it's obvious when we look at the genre-blending within True Blue, with its classical and Latin touches, that she's always thought it important to try new things. Her voice changed, the lyrical themes became more provocative... True Blue turned her into a superstar. But no matter what's changed for her music-wise over the years, she's never lost that infectious dance vibe.
It's their first album in eight years as well as their very first UK number one. The 90s clearly weren't ready for a Specials comeback, but Encore is a tour de force. It's their first album of original material since 1998 (though it does feature three covers) and sees the return of original vocalist Terry Hall. But it's the political edge to this album that has made it so important at this particular time.
1979: The Specials
They were pioneers of 2 Tone and ska revival in the Thatcher years and their debut album was important for the youth of the time. It explored the grim political climate of the UK, which is probably why they have returned to relevance so easily.
2019: Shine a Light
The Canadian rocker will always be hugely popular in his home country no matter what, but there really is a lot to love about his newest release. The title track was co-written by Ed Sheeran (arguably one of the best songwriters of this generation), there's a collaboration with J-Lo, and a fine rendition of the Irish classic Whiskey in the Jar.
It's hard to compare Shine a Light to the brilliance of Reckless, though. The 1984 record was powerful collection of soaring rock anthems including Heaven and Summer of '69, but it seems in this day and age such a traditional sound won't fly, so he's trying to blend as many elements as he can think of to stay relevant. It's not hurting him, but it doesn't come close to matching Reckless.
2019: California Son - If you love Morrissey's voice, then California Son is an interesting release. It's a covers album featuring songs by Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Carly Simon and others; some of them are good, some of them not so much. But it's difficult to judge his current standards by those of the past.
1986: The Queen Is Dead - OK, so it's not actually a Morrissey solo release but it's the most iconic of all The Smiths' back-catalogue and more so by a mile than anything Morrissey has released on his own. We long for the days of this post-punk paradise with that sardonic humour that has since turned into a lot of moody belly-aching. At least there's none of that on California Son.
The Rolling Stones
Given that this is a compilation, we can't really compare it to any of The Rolling Stones previous releases, but it doesn't matter because EVERYTHING The Rolling Stones have ever released has been iconic. And that's the point. Honk has everything from Jump Back: The Best of The Rolling Stones, and we're still going to buy it.
1971: Sticky Fingers
Honk features three tracks from Sticky Fingers (the best Rolling Stones record by most people's standards) including the iconic Brown Sugar. The 1971 release has everything we love about these veteran rockers; bluesy riffs, suggestive lyrics, and it's totally unapologetic.
2019: Hello Happiness
It's her first album in twelve years and followed her own journey of self-discovery. The upbeat, light-hearted themes and strong nod to 70s disco are what matters most on this little slice of joy, but so far it hasn't made too much of a splash either critically or commercially.
1975: Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
She might be best known for her solo rendition of I'm Every Woman, but her second venture with funk band Rufus is probably the most consistently brilliant record she's released. Khan elevated the group probably more than they could ever have expected, but her sound has definitely changed over the years and it's unlikely she'll ever make a full return to her funk roots.