The Rolling Stones are back with their first original studio album in 18 years — bringing their classic sounds to the modern age.
Hackney Diamonds’, which released Friday with 12 original songs, is the band’s 24th album, and includes features from Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Lady Gaga.
Before listening to the album, I was nervous that it would try to appeal to a younger generation with pop or high-tech remixes that don’t fit the band’s past sound. But the album rings true to what the Stones know best: rock ‘n’ roll.
Their classic punk sound is clear on the album’s lead single. “Angry” tells a tale of classic rock angst. It has a similar flare “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” with a passionate rebel voice screaming “don’t get angry with me.”
The album keeps up its classic rock pace with “Get Close,” an emotionally charged love ballad backed with intense guitar riffs. The romance takes a mellow turn with “Depending on You,” a tale of lost love and heartache with a soulful guitar whine backing Jagger’s vocals.
Hackney Diamonds ramps up again with “Bite My Head Off.” Paul McCartney riffs on the bass, bringing together the raging anger in the song. Although the track was disappointing without any vocals from McCartney, it was impressive to hear two voices from some of the most iconic bands in the world side by side.
The album transitions into “Whole Wide World,” which is the record’s weakest song. It lacks the same Stones rocker vibe as the rest of the album and sounds more like a 2000s era punk song, drifting from the original sound the Stones perfected.
“Dreamy Skies” is a complete shift from a typical rock and high-energy Stones’ album. While it gives the same soulful voice of Jagger, it feels like hearing a rockstar wanting to escape the chaos of his lifestyle. The soft strum of the guitar makes it feel like you’re far in the countryside.
“Live by the Sword” and “Mess it Up” were both highlights due to the work of Charlie Watts, the band’s late drummer who passed away in 2021. Hearing Watts on the track after the announcement of his passing was definitely an emotional tribute.
Elton John’s piano skills in “Live by the Sword” adds a jumpy beat to the hardcore rock tune with Jagger’s raspy vocals, while “Mess it Up” tells a soulful tale of a toxic relationship and “Driving Me Too Hard” breaks the listeners’ hearts with lyricism depicting a strenuous relationship.
Musical powerhouses Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder come together in “Sweet Sounds of Heaven,” with Wonder providing soulful piano riffs alongside Gaga and Jagger’s gospel-like ballads. The song’s lyricism plays into the spiritual theme with lines such as “Bless the Father, bless the Son / Hear the sounds of the drums.”
The album is tied together beautifully with an ode to the band’s beginnings through “Rolling Stone Blues.” The song is a cover of Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone,” which inspired the rock band’s iconic name. The song is a stripped down version, with only a strumming guitar and harmonica to the blues tune, feeling like you’re listening to the soul of the band without any rocker flare.
Whether this is Stones’ preparation for a final goodbye from music or the beginning of a new era, the band has shown that it still has their iconic sound. The album can be summed up with one lyric from “Sweet Sounds of Heaven”: “Let the old still believe / That they’re young.”