I never thought I would be reviewing an album from Rick Astley, but why the hell not? I’ll give anything a fair shake. Besides I’m stretching my music horizons a bit and this seems like something that might be up my alley. The new album, Beautiful Life, is Astley’s follow up to his 2016 album, 50. Which was really well received by audiences and critics alike, in particular within the UK. I have to say this is a good listening experience. It has some soulful and beautiful lyrics with some well-produced and slick music. The album has a very adult contemporary vibe to it, with a smooth sound the album makes for a relaxing and enjoyable listen.
The album is filled with entertaining songs; Astley really knows how to catch your ear usually. There are some sing-out-loud moments on this album from the title track, “Beautiful Life” an upbeat and fun track with a good funky beat in it. Also “Last Night on Earth”, a nice ballad with a decent chorus. Astley’s voice is clear and well defined and matches the music well. I like the instrumentation on the record. The synths and keys create a pleasant atmosphere and a solid foundation for all the tracks. There are a few tunes on here that will get you moving and your head bopping. It falls quite nicely into the adult contemporary genre and Astley personality shines through, with a vocal performance that’s strong and charismatic.
I like the production on the album. There’s a nice modern feel to it. However, the music itself definitely has an old-school swagger that you can definitely pick up. Such as on the songs, “Chance To Dance” and “Better Together”, which feel familiar and new to the ear at the same time. I also like the vocal harmonies on most of the songs, it feels like a singer-songwriter album from the 70’s. Although, this leads to a bit of a problem. The album doesn’t really have a standout song or songs. All of it kind of blends together into one long track. Yes, there different songs and the sound differs. Yet, there are no songs that really get stuck in your head. Well, nothing about it will 100% stick with you. It all sounds nice, but it all feels a little safe, no real chances were taken here and that’s a little frustrating.
I do like, Beautiful Life. It’s a very clean and polished sounding album, but it’s not an album I’m super eager to return to. I’m sure it will have its fans and people will like it. For me though, it’s an album that just won’t give me many memories. The production makes every song feel the same to a degree. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good production, but it’s almost too good. It’s too clean and polished. There’s no identity and that’s a shame. It’s just fine, not great and certainly not bad, just okay. Although there are some good moments, they are not moments that I feel like I have to come back to. It’s like an average movie at the cinema, it’s good while you’re watching it, but it might not be something you want to watch again. I feel the same here. If you are interested I would say give it a listen, by all means.
Words by Mick Birchall