On Steven Tyler’s single “My Own Worst Enemy” from his new album “We’re All Somebody from Somewhere” (truer words were never spoken), you’ll notice right away that it’s different from his usual “I’m-gonna-rock-you-til-you’re-inside-out” vibe. It is a regretful, honest, and relatable ballad. If you don’t know Steven Tyler, his past, and his reputation, you can still appreciate the song. But if you know a bit about Steven Tyler, the human being, you can feel the depth of his message and appreciate everything - him, the music, and the lyrics - that much more.
Tyler begins the song with a reflection. “I could blame Jesus. I could blame Mama. I could blame Brahma…”, obviously also able to laugh at himself a bit for reaching for reasons, as we all must, when looking back with 20/20 hind-sight. The falling into place of words with truths like “I could blame goodbye even thought I said it” are heart-piercingly satisfying.
Then a little instrumental bridge, in which Tyler sings in unison with a very nice harmonic minor-y harmonica solo, and a couple choruses out to the end... or to what we are led to believe is the end.
Cue in a solo drum lead-in that let’s you know something bad-ass is coming. Annnnnnd bam! In a not-too-flashy but also not-too-reserved solo, the guitarist wails over the band’s heavy groove, fading out to an echo-ey piano that leaves one feeling reminiscent and regretful, just as the song intended.
As a lover of classic rock music, and as a musician myself, I have to admit that when I first heard Steven’s new song (which SiriusXM is plugging heavily), I felt a little betrayed because of the style change. The industry is billing this as a “country” album. Perhaps they’re doing it for business reasons, or perhaps this album really falls into the “country music” genre. And what exactly defines the “country music” genre anyway? “Country music” went from Johnny Cash’s reality to Faith Hill’s formulaea in just a few short decades. This isn’t the Steven Tyler we know and love. But who are we to pigeonhole a true artist? Artists are not one-dimensional. In fact, most artists I know are incredibly multi-faceted. So, blame it on Aging, blame it on The Industry - I just think Steven wanted to do what Steven wanted to do. And yes, he collaborated with songwriters and session musicians and producers in Nashville, so maybe the album is not a 100% reflection of him only. But I really don’t think the guy needs the money at this point, so you know if he didn’t like the style or the way the album came out, it wouldn’t be out. Also, he’s Steven Tyler! He can work with anyone he wants to. And this time, he wanted to work with the Nashville sound. So it is not my place to feel betrayed, or to judge him as an artist, or as a person. The guy is 68. He’s had more life experiences than most 68 year-olds. And he still wants to make music. Many musicians, including myself, pray that we can have a musical career as long and as fruitful.
So kudos to you Steven! Thank you for keeping going, even though this world, as well as the Music Industry, is fraught with raw deals and insurmountable obstacles. You bring hope to us all, just by continuing to be you.