||Jagger's solo act is a singular hit
By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — Mick is being Mick. Big lips. Slim hips. Snide quips. "Teen pop isn't for thinking people," he says, "although you might find yourself whistling along occasionally." Mick Jagger is blissfully alienated from all things teen and pop and unfazed by the hijacking of radio and charts by Britney Spears and her ilk. At 58, the world's sturdiest rock star is defying industry bylaws that require yielding to passing fads. He's still in the fast lane. His fourth solo album, Goddess in the Doorway, out this week, earned a five-star rave in Rolling Stone.
Rock stations have embraced first single God Gave Me Everything, his collaboration with acolyte Lenny Kravitz. Jagger's first solo show in eight years was last week's hottest ticket in L.A. Limos unloaded Jack Nicholson, Meg Ryan, Sean Penn and scores of A-listers to attend.
Highlights will be plugged into Being Mick, a documentary he made with Oscar-winning filmmaker Kevin MacDonald that airs at 10 p.m. ET/PT Thursday on ABC.
After strutting on the rock stage for four decades, Jagger is finally shining a light into the dressing room. Being Mick offers intimate glimpses of his professional and personal sides. Goddess unveils spiritual and romantic yearnings. While tabloids have feasted on his private life since the early '60s, Jagger always considered offstage to be off limits, so these voluntary disclosures may surprise fans.
"All songs are autobiographical, just as all novels are," says Jagger, impossibly thin and casually elegant in a forest-green shirt, black slacks and slippers. "The romantic songs are taken from life, but then you give them a little twist at the end that perhaps didn't exist in real life. In writing, you like a conclusion, whereas life isn't always rounded off. Some songs are about real people and real relationships. Others are imagined or just observations. Some are more spiritual, others are a bit funny."
In media encounters, Jagger consistently refuses to share any details about his love life. In the studio, he's less cautious.
"If you're always guarded, you don't come across as a human being," he says between sips of Evian in his posh hotel suite. "However, you don't have to name the person you're singing to in the song. You don't have to wear your heart on your sleeve to that extent. Not all these songs are about harrowing life experiences. That would be boring. You have to have a sense of humor, a little tongue in cheek.
"But I don't think about any of this when I'm writing. A lot of it can be quite subconscious. It's feel, intuition and experience."
Cynics charge that such Goddess guests as Wyclef Jean, Bono and Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20 constitute a bid for youth currency. Jagger saw them as logical components of a project designed to bridge past and present.
"I wanted this to sound contemporary, whatever that means, without being slavish to trends," he says. "You cop what's going on and get the right sounds of the moment. You don't make a record in a vacuum. What's going on in the world rubs off on you. I love the new Bob Dylan record (Love and Theft), but that could have been made 20 years ago."
The yearlong Goddess odyssey is chronicled in Being Mick, which also glimpses Jagger engaging with his seven children. Jade, 30, teases dad about his young dates. He and Jerry Hall, a fixture in his life for 20 years, play with toddler Gabriel.
Predictably, celebs crop up. Jagger encounters Elton John at a party, and they critique Madonna's concert. The camera captures recording sessions with Kravitz, Bono, Jean and Pete Townshend. Equally intriguing are mundane scenes of Jagger exercising, voting and touring the Everglades. They take on a surreal edge, given the icon's usual shields.
When the BBC first suggested a documentary, Jagger declined and then chose to make his own, in part due to a lifelong love for film. (The upcoming Enigma, starring Kate Winslet and Jeremy Northam, is the first movie he has produced.) He also relished the notion of control. That power of final cut lowered his defenses.
"Other people wanted to film it and edit it, but I said no, this is my life," Jagger says. "Since I was doing it myself, I wasn't too worried. You're more free and easy, because if something embarrassing happens, you can take it out. But you can't take it all out. I still wanted an amusing piece, so even though my kids love it, I'm sure they feel slightly embarrassed about some things, as I do."
Among the studio snippets are daughters Elizabeth, 17, and Georgia May, 9, lending background vocals to Brand New Set of Rules, Jagger's pledge to mend his cruel ways with women.
"They love to be involved, and it's nice to have them involved," Jagger says, immediately adding, "I'm not trying to be a stage father. I don't think that's correct, but I don't want to discourage them either."
At last week's launch party, Jagger sparked pandemonium with rabid performances of Goddess tunes God Gave Me Everything, Visions of Paradise, Everybody Getting High and Lucky Day, plus oldies Miss You and Respectable. The event amounted to "the world tour for this album," he told the crowd. No further solo dates are planned, but buzz is growing about a 40th anniversary Rolling Stones outing in 2002. The band grossed $750 million touring in the '90s.
"I should think we'll do something," Jagger says. "People have been talking about the 40th anniversary for so long, but it's still a bit speculative. We haven't made any announcement, because we don't know what we're doing. Even if I knew, I wouldn't tell you. I'm not here to promote a Rolling Stones tour."
Instead, Jagger is stepping outside that vast shadow and discovering a surprisingly warm reception and far fewer fossil jokes. He theorizes that his own creative renewal and strong returns by such fellow vets as Elton John and Bob Dylan signal the commitment of seasoned players "who want to stay at the top of their game."
In Jagger's case, Goddess arrives at the intersection of luck and drive. "I had a lot of energy, a lot of things to write about, and the time is propitious, for some reason," he says. "Sometimes you just have a good moment."
||'Goddess' is mighty good, too
By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
Goddess in the Doorway (*** out of four), the finest of Mick Jagger's four solo albums, packs the same snarl and swagger that brought a kind of perilous pleasure to early Rolling Stones records. Only now, Jagger has discarded the masks and street-fighting personas to reveal the vulnerabilities and complexities of a middle-aged man seeking emotional rescue.
While the venom's muted, the vitality isn't, so don't expect somber meditations or nostalgic musings. Jagger has packed this Doorway with fat grooves, dance beats and generous slabs of funk, enlivening rockers and ballads alike with his rich yowl and unbridled vocal intensity.
Produced by Marti Frederiksen and Matt Clifford, the 12-track Goddess manages a modern vibe without sacrificing roots or phoning in loops from cyberspace. The heady God Gave Me Everything, while not an instant classic, is instant classic rock without the cobwebs. Guests add thunder rather than steal it, especially on the faintly hip-hopped Hideaway, with Wyclef Jean, and punchy Joy, featuring Bono's soulful wail and Pete Townshend's stabbing guitar.
A rhythmic feast full of soul-baring declarations, Goddess pushes a good many current rockers under Jagger's thumb.
[Edited by KeepRigid]