Boy George and Culture Club are back. The iconic group behind ‘80s classics like “Karma Chameleon” and “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me” have reunited for their first album in almost 20 years, Life.
The collective recently released the music video for the title song, an emotionally charged ballad that serves as a tribute to the beautiful life and career that George has led. In it, George sits at a mirror against a minimal black set, a la Sinéad O’Connor in “Nothing Compares 2 U.” As the video progresses, he fades in and out of numerous colorful looks, the kind he’s become known for. But it culminates in a shot of George sporting a bare look — no hat and no makeup — and shedding tears.
It’s one of the most beautiful tracks the group has released and George’s vocals and lyrics paint a vulnerable picture of where the artist is now.
We recently caught up with George as Culture Club finished their arena tour, and he prepares for his January 8 performance at Scala in London with We Are Brando, a band he manages. He talked to us about “Life,” vulnerability, and building a legacy for today’s queer artists.
What's it been like reuniting with Culture Club for this album?
It’s been typically complicated, just because, by their very nature, bands are very complicated. I would say, with us, we’re still learning to communicate better. The other weird contradiction is that the only time anything we do makes sense is onstage, in the studio, or in the writing process. When you're in the creative process, it all makes complete sense. It’s just the bits in between.
This song is so emotionally charged. What did you want to say in looking back on your life and career?
Well, this song is really about looking forward, not back. When we go onstage, I would say it’s probably the most representative of who I am now. I'm not sure if I can speak for the other guys, but the way the song is written, it’s written for me now, and I feel so comfortable when I perform that song. It’s a song about recovery. It's about change. It's about gratitude. It’s about realizing that you get to do the things you love everyday...When I started this journey all those years ago, I had no idea that I would ever be at this point, that I would have all this to look back on and to look forward to. So, it’s a song about taking stock.
Would you say it’s also a tribute to your loyal fans?
When we sing it live, I say to the audience, “I want to sing this song to each one of you individually.” Then, it kind of forces them to take some responsibility to listen. I would say with our audience, they’re pretty receptive to all of what we do. I noticed that when the album came out, people knew the songs. Then, they really started to sing along, and that was exciting to hear people sing the words of these new songs while going crazy for the old songs. It’s just nice to have new music that can really stand up against the old songs because that’s not easy.
You turned so many beautiful looks in this video, but you also show a completely bare, no makeup look. Why was it important to include that kind of vulnerability?
I think you have to challenge yourself when you write, when you perform. I’m always trying to be more vulnerable or more open. We live in a time now where there's a lot of polished performance. People know how to be famous now. They know how to be a drag queen, they know how to be fabulous...I think, as a performer, I'm always trying to be more open, more vulnerable, more honest...Makeup has always been my armor. It’s a strange dichotomy because when you dress up, you wear makeup, you’re flamboyant, and you attract more attention, but you’re also kind of hiding.
How does it feel seeing so many young queer artists today living their truths and knowing you had something to do with creating that legacy?
I want to live in a world where this kind of stuff isn’t important, and the question is “Are you any good at what you do?” not “Are you gay?” “Are you straight? or “Are you trans?” I’ve always wanted to live in a world where people are judged not necessarily on their sexuality or their color or their age. I still want to live in a world where people’s differences are kind of embraced, and we learn from each other. That’s why I’ve always kind of struggled with this cultural appropriation thing. I’ve always immersed myself in other cultures. It’s such a big part of who I am, and I think it sends a message that you love the world and everyone in it. Differences are what makes the world interesting. When I go to places like India, it’s like heaven, it’s like being in my mind. It is lovely to see people being able to express themselves.