Diana Ross




Diana Ross. Photo: Ross Naess.

Few figures tower over popular music like Diana Ross, who can go for 15 years without releasing an album – longer without one containing original material – and yet still seem enshrined in our collective consciousness. Now she finally returns to recording with Thank You, the mood of which is both celebratory and valedictory. The celebratory side leaps from the lyrics’ bubbling – sometimes cloying – optimism, the anthemic choruses (such as that of Tomorrow) and the dancefloor beats (including, unsurprisingly, If the World Just Danced). The valedictory element lies in her 77-year-old voice sometimes being less obedient than I’m sure she’d have liked, perhaps bringing down the curtain on a stellar career.

The album was mostly penned by Ross in collaboration with a veritable committee of songwriters. That it was made during the COVID lockdown presumably accounts for the overwrought Time to Call, apparently about calling on one’s maker in time of need, with strings gushing all over her thin-sounding singing. Beautiful Love is about a mother’s adoration of her child, and while it’s pretty enough, the sentiments are too baldly expressed. Better crafted is All Is Well with its brimming, almost naive optimism, even if it’s another where Ross’s vocals labour. The best of the ballads is Just in Case, the one track where the sense of strain in her voice compounds the emotional veracity.

Having borrowed a title from John Lennon for Come Together, Ross stitches it to a hollow anthem, riddled with spoken-word and humming interludes that might go down a storm at a Hillsong jamboree, but will irritate more people than they elevate. Among the songs flirting with spirituality, In Your Heart is the pick, proselytising less and riding on a more intriguing groove.

Speaking of Lennon, The Answer’s Always Love leans on Imagine (“You say I’m just a dreamer, but I believe it’s a good thing”) to such an extent that it would be a nudge tacky were it not so well-intentioned. The musically more interesting Let’s Do It suggests we “make life better together”, which is commendable enough, although it’s another overly bald statement on an album that must set a new record for the recurrence of the word “love”. The title track and the breezy I Still Believe come closest to harking back to Ross’s heyday, and that’s how I prefer to remember her.