REVIEW: MICHAEL WAUGH – BEAUTY AND TRUTH (2024)

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“You can’t fix me, I’m not broken. I am the way I am meant to be.”

That’s more than a line on “Fix Me”  – the second song on “Beauty And Truth”, its Michael Waugh’s mission statement.

Coming out as gay well into adulthood, and as a married man at the time, you can only imagine what agonising went into the decision.

What that means practically for this, his fifth album is the lyrics (for which he is always praised by his peers) have that extra degree of personal catharsis.

Consequently, too, it’s a very upbeat record in tone. “We Are Here” seems to soar on the back of its soulful backing vocals.

The aforementioned “Fix Me” deserves further discussion by virtue of it being one of the best songs I’ve heard all year. The journey from hating yourself to contentment is a tough one (whatever you hate yourself for, be it sexuality or something else) but the way it is done here is astonishing.

The title track is what we might call more “Americana” and even if it is more what I was expecting from the album, it’s raw, and it is glorious. “Like a suit that didn’t fit me,” he sings. “I swam around in someone else’s clothes.” And whether you are gay or not, anyone who has suffered from any form of trauma will find themselves in that idea of “playing a role”.

Everywhere you look there’s something stark, yet somehow beautiful. “Father’s Day” speaks so movingly of his broken family and the wounds are real, and the light, airy, almost pop “Out” makes no bones about the fact that despite the pain it’s obviously caused, Waugh is happier in himself now.

“Playlist” has a touch of MV fave Michael McDermott about it, the skill, the quality of the way it tells its stories, the catchy nature, and if “Young And Dumb” deals with the expectations of growing up, it does so with a real panache.

Occasionally the songs are delivered in a real confessional way, “Moved” does that, and the acoustics of “Songs About Women” is the absolute antidote to the “cheesy Power Ballads” that Waugh claims to love, but in typical style, it namechecks Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Kate Bush and about a million more.

There’s a haunting, almost mournful quality to “Patsy Cline”. “You listen to techno, I listen to Patsy Cline” he sings, in a way that suggests that he wrote it at 3 am in the midst of a bout of insomnia.

It wouldn’t do, though, for this not to end on an upbeat note. And “To Be Alive” does that. Maybe he hasn’t always been glad to be part of the human race, but he is now. Despite it all. That’s the takeaway from all of this, I imagine.

I am not gay. Yet, somehow in these beautiful words, we can all find ourselves somewhere. I have had battles with mental health issues for decades and every day you are learning more, dealing with things better. Imposter syndrome is merely part of this and when Waugh says: “I had this impostor syndrome standing behind the microphone” about making this album, you get it.” Then he adds: “But I feel that the sound was forged in that room.”

Not that he needs the validation, I am sure, but the sound in that room was magical, and “Beauty And Truth” is majestic.

Rating 9.5/10

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