On December 18, 2020, Paul McCartney released his McCartney III album. With the addition of this newest album, McCartney’s solo career has now spanned fifty years beginning with McCartney back in 1970. Like he has done on certain albums previously, McCartney wrote, produced, and performed; almost all aspects of the album over the course of the COVID-19 lockdown. After learning that Taylor Swift was going to postpone the release of her latest album, evermore, to honor his release, McCartney postponed his own release to honor her’s. Without further ado, let’s take a look at McCartney III.
From the start, the album has a lot of little blips and bleeps going on throughout the music to make it interesting. There are a few tunes with false endings, and a few that change genre throughout the course of the song. To that end, this is an album that keeps the listener on their toes- never quite sure what is going to happen next. As a whole, the production of the album is wonderful. The slap of the snare, the natural reverberations of the room, and the multiple layers panned all around is typical for the artist, but is not unwelcome. The best song on the album is Seize the Day. With a bridge that sounds like a classic middle eight that he would have written for a Lennon song, McCartney completes a full picture that grooves like a classic while not being a complete ripoff of his former band. A harmless pop song that is perfect for driving around your small town with the sun out and the world ahead of you.
But few albums are perfect, and this is no exception. In fact, there are plenty of parts to the album that are less than desirable. Lavatory Lil, for example, sounds like a demo from The Beatles (also referred to as The White Album), which is saying a lot considering The White Album is basically a double album of demos in the first place. There are many songs on this album that feel as though they needed an extra draft or two before being released, or at least that they needed to be edited down instead of dragging on. However, McCartney was never really one to write drafts- just release the song and move on to the next. The aging musician can also finally be heard as just that: aging. A lot of the tracks sound like a seventy-eight year old man trying to sing like he did in his twenties. Which, he is. But no matter how youthful he acts, his age finally seems to be catching up to him. On another note, the lyrics are… not good. Unlike an artist like Taylor Swift (read a review of her latest album here) who aims to say a lot with each song while having little music get in the way, Paul McCartney has the exact opposite problem. His music is wonderful while his lyrics say almost nothing. But then, his entire life his lyrics were ear candy. He just sings what he likes the sound of.
An interesting thing to note is hearing the life of Paul McCartney being worked into this album. While listening, one can hear the mind of Eleanor Rigby, Fool on the Hill, Rocky Raccoon, Band on the Run, and Fine Line at work. One can hear the influences of old blues, English folk, and even newer artists like Prince or Bruno Mars mixed in with who McCartney is. Which brings this to the final point.
This album is not for anyone else except for Paul McCartney. He does not write for a certain demographic, or a certain style, or even for the fame or glory. Paul McCartney writes music for himself. In the end, he probably doesn’t even care about a review like this because he made the album he wanted to make. And he can’t be faulted for that. He achieved the goal he was aiming for. So with that in mind, if you are not already a fan of Paul McCartney, this is probably not the album for you. And if you like Paul for all that he is, then you will most likely love this album. And that is why this album is titled perfectly. Like McCartney (1970) and McCartney II (1980), McCartney III (2020) is what he is. If one wants to learn the essence of Paul McCartney, they need not go any further. He has the ability to make whatever song he wants to, but left to his own devices to create an album for himself, McCartney III is it.
The present writer gives the album a 3.5/5 for achieving what it was trying to get done and for providing some nice ear candy for a one-time listen. But it will be rare to return to the album. Stream McCartney III on all platforms and judge for yourself.
(Cover Photo: Stereogum)