As the group's bass guitarist and key vocalist, McCartney's contributions to music go far beyond harmonies and chord progressions, but rather, establishes him as a historic and essential bridge between the music of today and the music he helped pioneer. And in his latest album, “McCartney III Imagined,” McCartney does just that.
Released on April 16, "McCartney III Imagined" features collaborations with various rising stars of today’s music industry, including Dominic Fike and Phoebe Bridgers, in a series of remixed tracks of his own works. This project is unique, as it shows McCartney inserting himself into the present genre of musical talent he undoubtedly helped inspire.
Out of 11 tracks on the digital version of the album, there are a few standout tracks that show an experimental side of McCartney that we haven't seen before.
“Pretty Boys,” featuring soul/rhythm and blues group Khruangbin, is a strong example of the many different music inspirations that McCartney experiments with on the project. Mostly focused in the jazz-fusion genre, Khruangbin's sound mostly relies on instrumentals, varying guitar tones and hypnotic vocals in order to keep their songs interesting.
Consequently, in this track, listeners get to experience an unusual sonic texturing to McCartney's vocals in an atmosphere he usually doesn't create on his own — his voice feels like it's finding its footing in a genre he usually doesn't focus on, but the result is nonetheless interesting and groovy.
“Deep Down - Blood Orange Remix” is an inspiring and nostalgic-sounding collaboration between these two musicians, but instead of it being McCartney's track, it very much feels like a Blood Orange song with a dash of McCartney.
Though Blood Orange’s affinity for choir-like vocals and piano-based harmonies place sonically well with McCartney’s singing, the production choices and transitions feel flat. Instead of creating a synergy where both artists are playing off each other’s chemistry and musical experience, Blood Orange dominates the flow and rhythm of the track.
Another notable mix is seen on “When Winter Comes - Anderson .Paak Remix.” An unexpected collaboration considering Anderson .Paak’s roots in soul and rap, the song is a unique blend of both .Paak’s drumming skills and McCartney's acoustic flair. Paired with keys and synthesizers, there's an especially percussive feel throughout this track, crafting a relaxing track in presentation and structure with much better blend of both artist’s creativity and vision compared to "Deep Down."
Conceptually, “McCartney III Imagined” showcases a broad selection of talent and sound blending, and while the results can be hit or miss depending on the artists that are featured, it's an undeniably bold statement from everyone involved.
McCartney expands upon his legacy with this album, and its success is a mixed bag of adventurous songwriting but a somewhat unequal collaboration in terms of artistic creativity.
But ultimately, for the artists who got the opportunity to remix and feature on these songs (as it's basically any musician’s dream to work with him) they're happy regardless of commercial success. And for McCartney, it's a way to revitalize his career and put himself out into the mainstream once again with a reimagined and more modern image.
Many artists of his era tend to gatekeep their songs, refusing to perform them live or permanently living in the shadow of their past self. And while this album will never be as universally loved as any of The Beatles' albums or any of his work on Wings, it's still an important album in his career and signifies that Paul McCartney is able to evolve with his musicianship rather than living in the shadow of it.