Making a powerful statement
Duff McKagan, best known as the bassist for legendary rock band Guns N’ Roses, has released his third solo album Tenderness. The title speaks millions about the content, as it’s not the typical hard rock style that you’d expect from McKagan, but instead it’s on the softer side, full of emotion. Most importantly, however, it’s full of messages that are pertinent to today’s day and age. It’s an album that you don’t have to be a fan of Guns N’ Roses or McKagan to enjoy. The music and the messages on it are universal, and it’s easily one of the best albums of the year in its own right.
The album begins with the title track “Tenderness.” The song reminds one of Ryan Adams in the way the vocals stand out from the music behind. It contains some beautiful piano and guitar playing, which compliment McKagan’s vocals perfectly. The song immediately shows listeners as well that the album is going to have a bit of a political leaning. The song begins with, “blackened days/ we’ve lost our way/ so gather round/ these lost and found/ stormy clouds/ a little tenderness is what we need.” The lyrics seem to suggest that we all have lost our way in this world, and that tenderness, or love and kindness, is what we need to save the world.
The second song is “It’s Not Too Late.” It has a somewhat country-rock feeling to it, due to the acoustic guitar throughout. The song immediately launches into another political message, saying, “children are dying/ with guns in the school/ screaming and shouting will surely go away someday.” Though it’s the first song on the album that references the many school shootings that the United States has seen, it is definitely not the last.
This is an album where it’s impossible to pick out the best songs. Some that are definitely worth mentioning though are “Last September,” “Breaking Rocks” and “Parkland.” “Last September” is another song that deals with tough topics and emotions. It’s a song about domestic violence, something that many deal with across the world. “He went and lost his anger/ he went and lost his brain/ her tears pried his anger/ it sent him in a ranger.” It’s a sad song, but it touches on a dark reality for many.
“Breaking Rocks” is a duet with the album producer Shooter Jennings, and it’s a heavily country influenced song. It tells the story of a man who has made some mistakes in life but wants to find redemption. “I’m a junkie, I’m a crook/ I’ve hurt and I took/ I’m sorry I’ll do my best to repay.” Though still a deeper topic at hand, it’s a fun, lighter song that sounds like it should be sung arm in arm at last call at a bar.
“Parkland,” as the song suggests, is a song about the tragedies that are the school, and other mass shootings that have happened in this country. The verses reference different mass shootings in the country, including Parkland, Columbine, Charleston, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech. The chorus of, “do we have to watch another mother cry once again? / do we gotta see another school kid die? No, not again.” Hits at the emotions that many have felt in recent years, while also raising important questions that need to be answered.
McKagan does a phenomenal job at creating an album full of political statements that is also incredibly enjoyable to listen to. It’s a beautiful album and is surely worth a listen, for both the incredible talent, and the messages each song contains.