Picks and Pans Review: Cheapness & Beauty
Like other chart champs from the '80s who now find themselves struggling commercially, Boy George would do well to study the secret of Madonna's success: She remains a Top 40 and MTV fixture because she understands the market value of good, palatable hooks. Since leaving Culture Club in 1987, George's various solo guises—new-jack swinger on 1989's High Hat, Hare Krishna dance diva on 1991's The Martyr Mantras, etc.—have unfortunately distanced him from the smooth tonality, as well as the platinum sales, of his former group.
He hasn't learned from his mistakes on his fourth solo album. Rather than picking up on his pop-tinted roots as he did on his 1993 comeback hit, "The Crying Game," George tries yet another new musical look, flirting with brash, windswept guitar rock. The openly gay singer-songwriter (who lives in London with his lover of nine years, video producer Michael Dunne) no longer hides behind vague pronouns like "you" and "they"; he now addresses his love-connected comments to "him." Such aggression makes for some sharp, barbed-wire lyrics: "I could beat ya/I could teach ya/But I'm not comin' down to meet ya," he growls on "Sad." Musically, Cheapness & Beauty is at its best on the fresh breeze of the title tune and the fragile "If I Could Fly"—when George dumps the cheap, hard-rock sounds and puts melodic beauty first. (Virgin)