Even for a blog, this headline is sort of ridiculous. LG, becoming Ol’ Blue Eyes?
Are we talking about triumphant mid-career Sinatra? Frail old-guy Sinatra? We’re about to find out. No one expected Liam Gallagher to be here, relevant, and killing it after Oasis at 50.
Rock fans did not expect to see a 90s leading man reemerge. LG’s new music was like Oasis but not a carbon copy. His voice sounded stronger than ever. We couldn’t believe our luck.
Five years have gone by. Liam Gallagher has charted three number one albums in the UK. He has sold out stadiums. He’s lit up Twitter with a humorous brand of oft-unintelligible slang.
With a well-known swagger and a newfound boyish charm, LG has played a Sinatra-style elder statesman role in indie rock. No one in his generation has his résumé. No one has his legendary voice. His new tunes pass the test. They play to his strengths. Many songs share an appealing theme of loyalty and family. Whether you believe it or not, it’s a smart package.
And I know it’s late for lullabyes
But the future’s yours and mine
Now and for evermore“Now That I’ve Found You”
Solo, LG sings about stuff that gets you in the feels. The song above is dedicated to his adult daughter from a long-ago fling. He also gets philosophical about the temporal nature of fame.
When the dawn came up you felt so inspired to do it again
But it turns out you only get to do it once“Once”
In “One of Us,” LG is sentimental about his estranged brother. “You said we’d live forever.” In other songs, he chides his brother Noel for being a disloyal friend, a fake, and a “greedy soul.” It has been a staple of his comeback, what do the songs mean in real life? You could say, it’s a Taylor Swift move. Sinatra did it first.
Frank Sinatra always chose his songs wisely. When his marriage to femme fatale Ava Gardner ended, Sinatra began a melancholy phase in his career. Songs included, “There Will Never Be Another You.” If you don’t write the songs, you make sure to select them with purpose.
As Liam boasts in “Greedy Soul,” he’s shown a (similar) Midas touch. Liam has proven what he set out to prove. After this comeback, no one questions his importance to Oasis’s legacy. He’s established himself as a throwback icon, “the last rock frontman.” You could call it a mid-career Sinatra moment. And yet, time marches on. Where does Liam Gallagher go from here?
Sinatra was a rare perfectionist. He recorded over 1,000 songs and worked until he was near 80. Sinatra had his own comeback period. He emerged from the casinos of Vegas to reclaim his standing as America’s leading man. Sinatra knew better than anyone how to stay on top.
Once everyone was satisfied with you, for Sinatra the real challenge began. Your enemy was no longer obscurity or critics. It was your will. To be a living legend, you needed to keep doing what you did a long time ago, just as well, even though you were half the man you once were.
We remember late-era Sinatra as kids, looking frail in his festive tuxedo. It’s a sight you don’t like to see. We saw a glimpse of old-guy Sinatra in Liam Gallagher’s performance last week.
LG played a song at The BRIT Awards that many felt made him look old. The song was “Everything’s Electric,” from his upcoming album. Liam has always nailed his solo material live. Something was off here. Why did Liam wear a face-obscuring fur snow hat with flaps? Why did he sing a track that was too high for his live vocal range? The chorus was in the full-tilt register of Dave Grohl, who co-wrote it. Liam couldn’t nail the chorus like on the record.
As obsessive fans will do, we fret over any weight gain that significantly ages our heroes. We recall it happening to Morrissey twenty years ago. “I woke up one day and had Robert Mitchum’s chest,” he admitted in an interview. “The body changes. [Y]ou must just accept it. “
You realize it’s part of a comeback. They remind you of their old glory days self. When Liam appeared back on the scene, he looked just a few years older. His weight, his hair, his style were practically identical. He even shared his clean-up regimen in his documentary, As It Was.
His secret was jogging! His trademark parka had been a cover for hiding the pounds. When he hit the stage for his comeback concerts, his hair was short, his face lean and chiseled. As well, his forceful, athletic voice was reinvigorated. The exercise seemed to be a part of the magic.
No one in his generation has his résumé. No one has his legendary voice.
At The BRIT Awards last week, Liam looked every one of his 50 years. Long hair; puffy parka. The hat appeared to be his way of disappearing on stage, an odd look. He loves the crowd. Peeking out from under his hat was a full chin. Morrissey probably had a point. Once you pass 40, to look adequate you need to look 10 years younger than you are. Liam didn’t last week.
Was Morrissey correct? Can nothing be done? Or, is the culprit a younger man’s partying ways? Liam makes no secret of his love of the pub. Once you hit 50, the pints show up on you. (As anyone in the neighborhood of 50 can tell you.)
Of course, Liam’s weight is none of our business. (In the past, he has playfully talked about it.) What has fans concerned is when his athletic songs become too much. The new single, “Everything’s Electric,” requires every bit of LG’s power. An out-of-shape singer can’t do it.
It’s a fact: singers lose some of their range as they age. Why did LG choose “Everything’s Electric?” Why raise the bar that high? It’s a noble goal. The song is a banger, but LG’s prior solo work played into his vocal range. He could snarl and soar. The songs didn’t best him.
At the end of Sinatra’s career, he looked every bit of his 70+ years. Fortunate to have kept a full head of white hair, Sinatra was a 20th-century man with a Vegas diet of cigarettes, booze, and prime rib. It was remarkable that he could stand up and sing for as long as he did.
Liam’s fans are overjoyed when his singing voice lives in the past. If he doesn’t take care of himself, the old man era awaits. It becomes easy to see why few singers can transition from “famous musician” to “living legend.” Bono tried to anoint himself. In the 80s, Bono hung out with Sinatra. He hoped to become Sinatra’s cultural successor. To many, it was a bad look.
Liam’s brother Noel isn’t up for legend status either. You can’t be a legend for songwriting. It’s a performance label. A guitar player can be legendary. Hendrix, SRV, Jimmy Page. Noel Gallagher is a brilliant songwriter. He’s a good singer. He’s a serviceable guitarist. Noel has the whole package, but being a legend isn’t about being well-rounded. It’s about being epic.
A wall-of-sound vocal delivery put Liam in an epic category. A never-care attitude about his image and status elevated his rock and roll bona fides. Ever-criticized for not writing his own songs, Liam showed the value of a transcendent vocal. Sinatra didn’t write songs. He owned the songs he performed. It’s what Liam did. He made Noel’s great Oasis songs legendary.
Liam’s voice is arresting in a rapped, sampled, and programmed music industry. Like Sinatra before him, LG promotes old-school values to the world he finds himself in. LG’s mission isn’t to be different. It’s to make rock and roll. It’s to deliver to fans “what it says on the tin.”
Liam won. He’s back. His fans want him to keep going. We ask him to be the icon that unifies the state of rock music present and past. We’d like him to continue ushering in the memories.
Does LG? He’s accomplished enough for most. Does Liam feel the need to push deep into Sinatra territory, to pay those heavy dues? You can have it all but how much do you want it?
Sinatra recorded one of his biggest songs, “New York, New York,” at age 65.
This post first appeared at Insomnia at Noon.