You’d be forgiven for thinking that Diana Ross has retired from music, but time at her home studio during COVID has brought us her first record in 15 years. At 77 years old Diana’s queen status is secured and she has nothing else to prove. I mean, she hangs out with Michelle Obama and Beyoncé. However, much like Willie Nelson recently, she is drawn back to the music and the need to get something out there. After listening to Thank You, we are all the better for her spending time in the studio during lockdown.
First of all, this is the year of the celebrity producer. In Ross’ case, she called on Jack Antonoff who is fresh off of Taylor Swift’s folklore and Evermore. He is able to maintain Diana’s disco glitter and apply it to modern pop. Much like the pairing of neon synth and pop on Swift’s 1989, Antonoff uses a healthy pinch of Ross’ funk / soul and disco glitter across a large canvass of modern pop. Unlike ABBA’s new record, which sounds like a bad pub cover band, Ross has enough of her classic disco vibe to stay true to her sound, but also enough pop to make it fresh. For this reason, I think Antonoff was an inspired choice and his genius is how he lets Ross cook without being too heavy handed in his soundscapes.
Within Thank You‘s first 3.6 seconds I was bobbing my head and thanking God that Diana blessed us with this track. I never knew I needed some new Diana until I heard this track. Vocally the track is strong with some hints of post production pitch work and clean-up, but we will probably never know the true extent of any post work. Having said that, it sounds largely natural with only slight tweaks to work around vocal issues that anyone 77 would encounter. The most important thing is that her vocal has an energy and drive to it that is instantly captivating…unlike ABBA’s new vocal that sounds like an outtake from a hostage video…sorry ABBA. The vocal has a fun disco energy to it that does not feel dated, but feels light and playful.
Musically, we are getting some classic Antonoff here, in the sense that he is taking an existing genre and putting it into an OmniBlend full of pop. Much like how he took 80s dirty syth and spread it over a pop foundation in 1989, he takes 70s disco funk in Thank You and spreads it over a modern pop aesthetic. The popularity of artists like Bruno Mars and Janelle Monáe, as well as St. Vincent’s new disco / funk inspired record Daddy’s Home, have created a niche for Diana’s sound. Moreover, the music shows a respect for Diana’s contribution to disco, because it does not sound gimmicky. This sounds like an honest and genuine recording of an amazing artist and not a retro cash – in.
Ross’ work with Antonoff on Thank You shows the power of joy and restraint. You have the beauty and joy from Diana’s vocal, as well as Antonoff’s musical restraint as he compliments her sound as opposed to flattening it. Thank You has a freshness to it that I really enjoy. The long and short of it is that…indeed…the queen is back…long live the queen.
Listen to Thank You