Written by Lauren Rosier
NYC-based alternative-rock singer/songwriter, Paul Maged, shares his latest album, Culture War, out on November 3.
The 10-song set opens with the heavy-hitting title track, “Culture War,” a political track with socially-conscious issues like climate change as topics. This is Maged‘s fifth album and first full-length album since 2014’s Diamonds & Demons. Other socially-conscious songs include “Lose Your Privilege” and “Cult 45.”
“Nobody writes protest songs anymore. Major artists used to write protest songs. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan. You just don’t see that anymore because all popular artists today are so neatly packaged to appeal to the masses and no one wants to ruffle any feathers. I may not be a big artist but I have to speak my truth and I know I’m not alone in how I feel,” Maged explains.
Finding his truth and what he wanting to sing about was oftentimes difficult. The writing process was sometimes painful. The socially-conscious track, “Lose Your Privilege” is a hard rocker that touches upon white privilege and how that privilege works out in politics, many times with leaders making decisions that do not put the less fortunate at the forefront. Then George Floyd was killed and the song changed.
“I changed some of the lyrics to reflect the overall theme of white privilege which is much broader than just politics, it’s systemic and deeply rooted everywhere throughout our country and society,” Maged explained.
On the track, “We Are,” he brings in the piano for a subtler soft rock track a la Elton John. Maged sings about making changes for love and blends the fullness of the piano with the rock sound of the guitar to create a track that blends both rock ‘n roll with soft rock. This song was written right after Maged saw the movie, A Star Is Born, in the theaters. He said, “I was so inspired by that movie. I felt very positive and artistic afterward. It was filled with such love and support of art and humanity that I had to write something. I came straight home and wrote this song in less than an hour. My real wish is that Lady Gaga would sing it.”
The track, “Shine On Your Light,” features some heavy guitars opening the song with some killer chords. Maged described the song as a “therapy session” as he sings to his late father, “I feel a hole within. Can you see from above? Can you view my old sins? Can you still measure love?”
Before his father passed away, he became a licensed therapist and practiced Gestalt therapy. In Gestalt therapy, there is an exercise called the ’empty chair exercise’ where you sit and have a discussion with a loved one who has passed. My mom had died a few years before my dad at the age of 46. I had so many unanswered questions. My dad told me about this chair exercise and suggested I try it with my mother. I wasn’t ready at the time. Then he died just months after I had this conversation with him, at 56 years old, and ironically, it’s during this song that I tried this exercise and had that discussion, but instead with him. It was a very hard song to write.”
“Cult 45”, a punk rock-infused anthem, showcases caustic lyrics dripping sarcasm, had to be re-written multiple times. “I recorded the full vocals, but this guy reaches new lows every day so I had to re-record parts of the lead vocal to keep the lyrics up to date with his constant reckless and corrupt actions and behavior,” he noted.
“Jeanie Is A Rockstar” is a killer track that opens with a sick bassline then transitions into the heavy guitar for 1:33.
I really enjoyed the melodies of his song, “The Saturday Scene.” It had a power-pop sound with lyricism like “you have to pay our dues/but these are our dreams…”
The last track on the record is “When Dreams Don’t Come True.” The track has an infectious melody with enormous vocals. Overall, the record was decent… I look forward to seeing what Maged has in store for us in 2021.
Connect with Paul Maged