Review: Steven Wilson — Personal Shopper

Category:  Music
Thursday, April 2nd, 2020 at 2:56 PM
Review: Steven Wilson — Personal Shopper by Rhiannon Pushchak

“Consumer of life, hold my hand, extend your rights / It's the power to purchase to excess / That sets you apart and can give you the ultimate high / Abuser of time, if there's something that you want / You don't need it, but have to concede it's making you happy / And that's all that matters to you.” 

Highly-acclaimed and Grammy-nominated artist Steven Wilson is back with his first new single since his 2017 album, “To the Bone.” Once called “the most successful British musician you’ve never heard of” by The Daily Telegraph, the founding member of the now-defunct progressive rock band Porcupine Tree released the new track on March 12. No stranger to experimentation, “Personal Shopper” is considerably darker than Wilson’s typical output and demonstrates yet another innovation in his sound; he’s now closer to Depeche Mode or Nine Inch Nails, rather than King Crimson or Pink Floyd. 

“Personal Shopper” rips on the ideas of capitalism, greed and the obsession with luxury; some fans who prefer his more rock-like albums might say his new track is a little too electronic, and perhaps too critical of its listeners. The majority of his fanbase, though, will continue to praise Wilson for his unmatched ability to transcend genre, while his lyrical content is just as thought-provoking and interesting as always.  

Some criticism of the song comes from the fact that he uses self-deprecating irony to prove his point — something unaware fans saw as egotistical and arrogant — denouncing things he is well-known for in the music community, such has elaborate box-set releases and remastered pressings of previous albums. He sings, “Buy the box set and the kind of stuff / You've bought before a million times / Buy in green, buy in blue / Buy in patterns because I tell you to / Buy the dream, buy the spin / Feel the bite down of the trap you're in / Buy the lies that I tell / Lap up everything I'm here to sell.” But this is not the point of Wilson’s new single. He is not trying to exploit his most loyal fans, but rather warning them to be more weary of the difference between wants and needs.  

One of the biggest surprises of the song is the guest appearance from Sir Elton John in the bridge. Elton’s contribution is just as cynical and critical as the rest of the song, as he lists off different luxurious products that vain humans purchase to make them look more important or respectable, such as detox drinks, teeth whitening cream, volcanic ash soap, and even self-love, esteem, obsession and doubt.  

Especially now, indulgence and greed is all too familiar. “Personal Shopper” is a warning to all those people buying things just to be higher on the food chain, and Steven Wilson does this in the most unapologetic way he knows how. He’s created yet another song that makes one think about the choices they have made for themselves. 

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