Are We There Yet?

Rick Astley

BMG, 2023

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


In 2022, Rick Astley’s booming, soulful baritone was heard on the nostalgic pop tune “Bring Back The Time,” which featured New Kinds on the Block, Salt N’ Pepa, and En Vogue. In the video, Astley, along with the other acts, reenacted shots of iconic ’80s music videos. It was an affectionate look back at a pop past, but in his native UK, Astley had already managed to transcend the damning baggage of a nostalgia act by mounting a successful comeback in 2016 with his 50 album. The latter reached number one on the UK album charts, going platinum as Astley embraced his camp image and reacted to things like the Rickrolling meme and his own cheesy ’80s hits “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “Together Forever.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Inspired by his travels in the USA, the singer recently released his ninth studio LP, Are We There Yet? Though it’s tempting to speculate that Astley’s work this time around might be more acoustic or country-leaning, especially since Astley talked about traveling in the American south, the album is in fact another soul-inspired pop album. It’s a very good effort that continues the singer’s excellent second career in which he grows further away from his Stock Aitken Waterman days.

One of the things that set Astley apart from his peers in the early 1980s is his gorgeous voice. Despite the dated ’80s production that did its best to crowd his voice out, he was able to out-sing even the most synthetic production with his gravelly, R&B-reared voice. On Are We There Yet?, as with his previous efforts of the past few years, the production is far better suited to his earthy voice. The record pays musical tributes to ’70s soul and Motown.

The best moments on Are We There Yet? Show off a singer who is confident and unbothered by the potentially cheesy (if not campy) past that dogs him, despite his genuine talent. Listen to the stomping soul of “Maria Love” and its killer horn section or the Marvin Gaye-esque “Never Gonna Stop” and you’ll be won over by his wonderful singing. Also great is the strutting “Dippin My Feet” which is an homage to Astley’s fondness for American southern soul music.

It’s fantastic to see Astley’s growth as an artist as well as the confidence he displays on releases like Are We There Yet? He’s found a new career in middle age by making some of the best music he’s ever recorded. The moody “Driving Me Crazy” is a minor triumph of soul-pop and shows us that he’s an artist who is so much more than a meme.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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