War Zone is conceptual artist Yoko Ono’s newest musical release on the Chimera Music music label. While the album is new, coming out October 19 2018, the songs contained on it are renderings of material Ms. Ono had originally released on her own or with her late husband, John Lennon, between 1970 and 2009.
While the release could be seen as simply a retrospective of her musical career, far too much care has been taken in the material’s selection to simply pass it off as a so called greatest hits package. In fact even to imply Ms. Ono is the type of artist to have “hits” diminishes the works presented here.
Yes she has used the pop music format to express her ideas, and one of the songs, “Imagine”, is arguably one of her late husband’s best known works from his solo career, but she is anything but a pop musician. Her music, and art, have always pushed the boundaries of what most people would consider acceptable or even palatable.
But that’s what makes it intriguing and compelling. She’s never taken the easy route of safe pop music or safe paintings to appease anyone’s appetites. On War Zone Ms. Ono is not only giving us a retrospective of her musical career, she’s giving us all a chance to appreciate the music in a new context.
The new context being the blatantly horrible state of the world today. Maybe Ms. Ono’s somewhat dissonant approach to popular music didn’t ring true in the rose tinted world of the 70s. However, as the world descends deeper into unrest and division, as the planet’s ecological balance is thrown even further out of whack, all of a sudden her music makes a lot more sense.
From the album’s title track, “Warzone”, with its disquieting opening mix of the sounds of nature and machine gun fire, to “I Love All of Me”, an empowering song encouraging people to love who they are, these songs deal with the ills of society in a very real way. Ms. Ono proves time and time again she’s not afraid to say the truth, no matter how unpopular the sentiments might be.
Musically Warzone is an intriguing mix of electronics, found sounds and instrumentation. However, Ms. Ono also knows when to pull back from all the bells and whistles as her simple and unadorned version of “Imagine” shows.
Thinking about the content of these songs it’s also amazing to realize how far ahead she was of anybody else when it came to articulating specific issues. Long before “Me Too” Ms. Ono was championing women’s rights – as shown by the song “Women Power”. Having been the victim of trolling long before the Internet even existed she’s been aware of how a woman can be blamed for something that wasn’t her fault for quite some time.
You may not ‘like’ every song on War Zone by Yoko Ono, but that’s not the point with art. Art should make you think and form an opinion on what its trying to say to you. Ms. Ono will definitely make you have an opinion on subjects you may never even have thought about before.
(Article originally posted at Blogcritics.org as Music Review: Yoko Ono - War Zone)
Richard Marcus is the author of two commissioned works published by Ulysses Press, editor in the books section of Blogcritics.org and contributor at Qantara.de. He has been writing since 2005 and his work has appeared in publications all over the world including the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine.