A fan-pleasing record from the Queen legend...

Historically speaking, Roger Taylor’s voice hasn’t really been heard in isolation. Instead, Taylor’s vocals are most synonymous with the operatic, triumphantly strong backup singing of Queen, the likes of which propelled the band’s arrangements to sonically legendary heights. In fact, most casual fans of Queen’s work wouldn’t be able to discern Taylor’s voice from his bandmates, John Deacon and Brian May, who sang alongside him in an accompanying role. But, outside of Queen, Taylor has established a niche solo career that has enhanced his recognizability in non-Queen settings. On 'Outsider', he continues that tradition in an unobtrusive way, combining common rock and meditatively philosophical ambience to create a decently attractive 12-song collection.

On the 'Gangsters Are Running This World', Taylor not-so-discreetly rebukes the authoritarian leadership of Vladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro, while acknowledging the ever-present COVID-era isolation on the chorus of 'Isolation', during which the line “strange times indeed” is repeated several times.

Elsewhere, Taylor wades through a delightfully introspective arrangement on 'Tides' and slips back into familiar rock structures during the gyrating, rhythmic passages of 'More Kicks (Long Day’s Journey Into Night… Life)'. He also alludes to the process of languishing on 'We’re All Just Trying to Get By' and adds horns to the mix on 'The Clapping Song'.

While well voiced, Taylor’s lyrics can often miss in terms of their salience and poignancy. Oftentimes, Taylor takes straightforward sentiments and expresses them in a manner that is far too casual and conversational. The second verse of 'Outsider', for instance (“There’s a kid that’s twice your size / Always bugging you in class / You’re walking home from school / And he’s hiding in the grass”), isn’t off-putting or disagreeable, but sounds more like an educational limerick than a hard-hitting anecdote in a rock song.

Taylor’s messages are worthwhile ones for sure, but they are, in some cases, put too bluntly to be appealing within their associated musical contexts. This manner of platitudinal dialogue is a staple on the record’s less epic tracks, making them more ephemeral afterthoughts than distinct, powerful appeals to deeply felt emotions.

Overall, Taylor’s offerings on 'Outsider' are familiarly accessible and very direct. It hardly moves mountains as a standalone effort, but is moderately impactful and somewhat befitting of its lofty pandemic-era presentation. There’s no reason 'Outsider' won’t be embraced by Queen fans (and, more broadly, fans of the brand of rock he’s famous for helping to craft), but it isn’t likely to be considered one of the COVID era’s most triumphant or profound releases.

6/10

Words: Hayden Godfrey

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