Interview: Boy George the Provocateur, the Activist, the Bieber-Sympathizer
By Courtney E. Smith
Boy George wants to push your buttons, softly.
On the morning of our interview, he inadvertently pushed some buttons by chanting in his New York City hotel room. As a Buddhist, it is his preferred way to start the day: a ritualistic activity meant to open the mind. But the gentleman in the hotel room next door objected.
“I can be quite noisy and robust in the morning,” George says with a smile. “I like to have a good get it out.”
We, along with a handful of gossip blogs, found out about the incident not because a spy at his hotel ratted him out but because George tweeted the incident in real-time. Even in a private moment seeking zen, George can’t help but take a poke at his critics.
That mantra extends to his latest album, This Is What I Do. He’s left the electronic music that he’s been best known for on the table in favor of creating something unexpected, and yet perfectly expected record for those who are intimately familiar with the universe of what influences Boy George. It’s a collection of songs in a crooner vocal style, funneled through his Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen influences. There’s also Jamaican dancehall, country and the Verve. In fairness, George achieved the latter by working with the Verve’s producer, Youth.
“I’m at a point in my life where the questions are the same, but I don’t necessarily need the answers,” George says of his journey in creating the album. “This record feels like — people have said to me, ‘Oh, you’re being really honest!’ Which wasn’t really how I started. For someone like me, who has grown up with Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, it’s hard not to invest a lot of myself in what I do.”
George tell us he is being conscientiously positive about what he puts into the world and has been pleased with the returns.
“I’ve sold a lot of records, I’ve sold like 150 million records, and I don’t think I’ve had that many good reviews. It’s one of those things that when you’re really successful, critics hate you just because you’re successful. It’s a bit like the Justin Bieber thing. People say, ‘Oh yeah, but he’s really rich.’ And no one has sympathy. I’m like, ‘Poor kid. Who’s looking out for him?’ And people are like, ‘Who cares, he’s got millions!’ What has that got to do with anything?” he asks, laughing. “When you’re successful, people have no sympathy. Nobody wants to catch the tears of a millionaire.”