by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As one of the all-time great pop singers, Van Morrison uses vernacular to express himself and touch the deepest part of his listeners. His new album What’s It Gonna Take? asks a universal question — a key question about the endemic phase of the lockdowns but too dangerous for pop figures tied to corporate venality, who think that status quo subservience is “for the greater good.”
Singing from a place of innate liberty — an artist’s intuitive, expressive freedom — Morrison describes the culture’s recent repression the same way pop, folk, and country songs relate common experience. Morrison gently urges us toward individual realization: “What’s it gonna take for you to break? / There’s no time to make your mind up.”
Morrison’s plea “What are we gonna do now, baby?” surpasses the rhetoric of politicians and media hucksters. His reminder “But they won’t take the boot off your neck” ingeniously corrects the George Floyd meme that heightened the lockdown-breakdown. It’s genius suasion.
No set of pop songs about the inherent need to escape tyranny have better shown the good-sense forthrightness that distinguishes Morrison’s current phase (which began with last year’s Latest Record Project, Volume 1) where he transformed (personalized) the partisan tradition of the protest song.
This new album is motored by the moment; each track’s casual urgency recalls jamming improvisation — songs to enjoy, not fussed-over and arty folk-rock. Several slams against the demeaning phrase “the new normal” speak up for those without a soapbox. …
… These reflections are less far-ranging than last year’s 28-song bounty, but the most outstanding include “Not Seeking Approval,” which reasons, “You think it’s about a virus, yes, but it’s being used against us. You can’t say it enough because wisdom, sense and logic don’t seem to be getting through.”