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(Less-than) ordinary ballad - 5%

BuriedUnborn, January 11th, 2020

Ballads. Ballads are good. Ballads can be original, ballads can be really nice to listen, ballads can be very interesting when they come from artists known by making heavy music, ballads are a wonderful thing to have in an album, they can be a way to prove that every musician has a softer side and that even a death metal band can play soft, melodic and slow music (I'm looking at you In Mourning)... But then you've got songs like this one; and let me tell you, this song isn't like anything I've mentioned above.

"Ordinary Man" is (at this date) the newest song by the legend Ozzy Osbourne. As he's been doing with his latest songs, it was composed and played with some invited musicians (members of Guns 'n Roses and RHCP), and in this time, it features Elton John on the piano. Everyone who has ever heard an Elton John song knows that he isn't the most virtuous, creative or interesting artist, but he has some nice songs which are mainly pop songs and some rock-ish stuff here and there. The main characteristic of this song is that's piano-based, it's the main instrument throughout the whole song, but man, it's SO BORING! It's just a pretty generic chord progression which goes chord-single note, chord-single note, chord-single note, again and again and again, and it goes like that during 5 minutes straight (well, almost); there's not a single melody played by the piano in the whole song, only the same stupid chord progression, which after 30 seconds starts drilling into your head and makes you want to turn the song off already. It wouldn't be so bad if it didn't remind me of 20 other songs which sound exactly the same.

Moving on, even though Elton John must have written his whole part in the song in quite literally 30 seconds, there are some other instrumental features in it. There's sort of an orchestral arrangement playing in the background, which may comprise some cellos and an organ, but I can't hear it over the damn piano and Ozzy's vocals (more on this one below), it takes protagonism in the outro of the song, which is just literally a completely unnecessary 30-second filler. There's also Duff McKagan's bass, and to be honest watching some ants trying to lift and move a tiny piece of cat food is more inspiring than the bass. Duff's literally getting paid to play a max of 2 notes per compass (and I'm sitting here writing this, smh). The song is somewhat "climaxed" by Slash's guitar solo, which apparently tries to sound similar to November Rain's one but fails terribly, and he just leaves us with one of the most boring solos I've ever heard in my whole life. I've always believed that songs like this are the perfect opportunity for a guitarist to go wild and create a beautiful solo (Comfortably Numb is in my opinion the prime example of this), yet we get this laughable solo which I'm pretty confident a 9-year old with a little knowledge in guitar-playing could compose and play. And, the drumming... Yeah, nothing to say about the drumming; it's just as uninspiring and basic as the bass.

And now, let's talk about the vocals... Oh man, the vocals... When I heard the song for the first time I was expecting that classic voice from Ozzy; not this auto-tuned, filtered voice which sounds like your average trap singer (at least there's some actual melody in the vocals). While Mr. Osbourne vocal tone and style remains intact, the quality of his voice has categorically decreased, I'll guess it's mainly due to age, which would probably sort of justify having to do this crap to all his vocal parts in his last 3 songs, but still doesn't make it any less bad. His vocal lines are somewhat cliche for a song like this one, quite frankly there's nothing interesting in how he sings this song, I mean it's not objectively bad but it could have been way, way better; he had complete and total freedom to play around with his vocal lines and maybe throw in some high notes or vibratos that could make the song more interesting, but he decided not to. While I don't believe the vocal melodies and the way Ozzy sings here is bad, I do have to criticize what whoever edited and mastered this song did to his voice; it sounds synthetic, dull, robotic, it makes one of the most iconic metal singers sound like a below-average pop music singer, and it hurts to listen to.

Oh, and I was about to forget about the lyrics! Yeah! What about the lyrics? Ummh, let me see... they suck too.
Most songs of this style have some sort of sad lyrics, which usually talk about the singer (or any band member) backstory or feelings, and it's understandable; a calm, melodic song is better to explain something depressing or sort of non-happy, as the vocals take a leading role and they have a more direct in pact than if they are shouted over some heavy riffs and drumming. There are many ballads (or acoustic songs) that express what I mentioned above in very poetical, yet easy-to-understand ways (like Nutshell by Alice in Chains), but "Ordinary Man", it just doesn't. None of the lyrics of this song are poetical, or have any sort of open meaning, nor they are very original, to be fair, the lyrics for this song sound like if they were written by a 15-year old; they are edgy as shit. Lines like "I've made momma cry / Don't know why I'm still alive" or "I don't wanna say goodbye / When I do, you'll be alright" (just to give some examples) are cringe and edgy; if taken out of context, I'd believe they are from an emo/post-hardcore song from the mid 2000s. Also, a line like "And the truth is I don't wanna die an ordinary man" just sort of tells me that the lyrics don't express Ozzy's (assuming he wrote the lyrics for this song) actual point of view or feeling, because to be fair, you can't "die an ordinary man" when you're one of metal's biggest artists ever.

Quite frankly I don't find anything good in this song, it's hard for me to do it; it sounds like a radio-friendly cash grab, an excuse to make money by an already rich person, and just a way to ruin a legendary legacy with subpar music by the standards of such an artist. It's incredible how bad this song is, considering that all of the artists involved have composed awesome ballads (or soft songs) before; "November Rain" or "Don't Cry" by Slash and Duff, "Black Gives Way to Blue" (Elton John with Alice in Chains, which is 50 times better than this song), "Dreamer" or "Mama I'm Coming Home" by the same Ozzy, and also "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" by Chad Smith (I don't think he played any role in actually composing those songs though). It just amazes me that 5 musicians with such trajectories that span from 35 to 55 years of making kick-ass music could come up with such a weak, uninteresting song; it's a shame and an insult in my opinion.

Sometimes you have to put your career to rest instead of ruining your legacy with things like this one, but sadly Ozzy doesn't seem to agree. The fact that he wants to continue playing and making music is awesome, yet what he is doing releasing those last 3 songs, is not.

Back in my day, we... - 45%

hells_unicorn, January 10th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Epic Records

Ozzy's crazy train has been coming up a tad short in the insanity department for the better part of 30 years as it continues to slowly chug forth to some unseen station. Perhaps it would be better to refer to this means of transit as being more a nostalgia train at this point, fueled instead by a contrived hype machine rather than standard coal. The recent string of singles that closed out the previous decade have been hinting at an eventual biopic, with the partners in crime rounding out the prince of darkness' studio band being built out of big names from the mainstream rock world rather than his usual gang of heavy metal miscreants, including but naturally not limited to Zakk Wylde, who seems to not be producing much under Ozzy's banner despite being back in the fold for about 3 years now. However, things have taken a rather sizable left turn with the release of Ordinary Man, one that goes beyond the odd inclusion of Guns 'N' Roses and Red Hot Chili Pepper alumni into the equation toward something more brazenly pop/rock in demeanor.

To be fair, there is a certain logic to Ozzy opting for a duet with longtime power pop icon Elton John given the former's frequent forays into ballad territory more akin to the likes of The Beatles and other various 1960s rock groups over the course of his career. Nevertheless, bands like Saxon have been routinely raked over the coals in the metal community just for having said man provide piano work on a couple of off-the-cuff experimental arena rock songs, whereas Mr. Osbourne is likely not to suffer similar treatment, at least not for the same reasons. In contrast to the couple of songs in question that rounded out the AOR-infused mid-80s bomb Rock The Nations, this song makes no attempt at merging Elton John's syrupy, slightly jazzy shtick with his usually metallic format and instead opts for complete retro-balladry that lands somewhere between the easy-going optimism of John Lennon's "Imagine" and the slightly more animated first half of "Hey Jude". Occasional lead guitar flairs out of Slash are mildly reminiscent of George Harrison's syllabic solos, but overall the backing band is more akin to window-dressing for what is essentially a piano-dominated tune with two tired baritone voices reminiscing upon the good old days.

The ultimate downfall of a song like this is that it's been heard hundreds of times before, and was already a played out concept when this reviewer was still yet to be of this earth. All the various moving parts that go into this sort of stripped down, restfully pleasant affair are well oiled and perform their expected function adequately, and the production quality does give it a slight sense of newness, though it will probably be lost on anyone who has bothered to sample what rock music was prior to the 1980s. At least when mainstream acts of said decade such as Motley Crue and Kixx attempted to emulate this style in such noted rock radio hits as "Home Sweet Home" and "Don't Close Your Eyes", they had the good sense to put some needed buildup and eventual gusto into the equation to keep it from feeling stagnant. In contrast, this song simply goes through the motions, spearheaded by a duo of aging rockers who possess less than half the singing range of their heyday. It's a cut above the last two songs that Ozzy has put out of late, and while getting old may be just cause for retreading the past, is it too much to ask that one do so with a bit more intrigue?