With Ordinary Man, Ozzy Osbourne presents his most personal album yet, without losing any of his theatricality.
He’s also in very good hands musically, with accompaniment from members of Guns N’ Roses, Rage Against the Machine, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and guest vocals by everyone from Elton John to Post Malone.
Featuring walloping riffs from Slash, opening track “Straight to Hell” is a cheerfully sinister warning shot in the vein of “No More Tears” or “Perry Mason.” Over scorching guitars and tolling bells, Ozzy sneers, “I’ll make you scream – I’ll make you defecate.” Alrighty then.
From there, the Prince of Darkness gets introspective. Unsettling ballad “All My Life” provides an unexpected punch to the gut: its opening lines see the elder Osbourne meeting his childhood self, who looks up at him “crying tears of defeat, asking plaintively: “Am I going to be lonely like you for all my life?’”
The following track, “Goodbye,” is a frantic tour of the abyss – the final pleas of a drowning man who may be too far gone to be saved: “No reward for suicide…I wish you heard me crying out for help.”
Even after he released the gorgeous “Ordinary Man” as a single earlier this year, I was not expecting to find such devastating lyricism on an Ozzy Osbourne record.
Featuring a cameo from Elton John, the title track is a poignant piano ballad that has Ozzy looking back on his struggles with substance abuse and troubled relationship to fame. The regret here is almost defiant; the song evokes his No More Tears confessional “Road To Nowhere” as much as the insolent rebellion of “I Don’t Wanna Stop.”
“Don’t know why I’m still alive,” the singer concedes, before admitting: “The truth is, I don’t wanna die an ordinary man.”
The album combines plainspoken frankness with dramatic imagery: churches and cemeteries, funerals and apocalypses. “Under the Graveyard” recalls the gothic grandeur of Osbourne’s Black Sabbath work, casting his lifelong battle with addiction as a real-life horror story: “Today I woke up and I hate myself…I’ll drown my mind until I’m someone else.” (The song’s nightmarish music video, directed by Lords of Chaos filmmaker Jonas Åkerlund, leaves very little to the imagination).
Of course, Ozzy Osbourne has never been a particularly private person. His drug-fuelled rampages have entered the realm of legend, and he’s put his personal life on display through everything from reality shows to advice columns. The spectre of his turbulent history has always been present in his records, from conflicted confessionals like “Road to Nowhere” and “Mama, I’m Coming Home” to prescient early tracks like alcoholic cautionary tale “Suicide Solution.” But (with the possible exception of Scream standout “Latimer’s Mercy”) the despair on this album is deeper than anything we’ve previously seen from the troubled Prince of Darkness.
Not to say there aren’t a few welcome breaks from the doom and gloom. “Eat Me” is a fiendish filler track which has Ozzy cackling over some grody double-entendres. And “Scary Little Green Men” is an eerie sci-fi rocker that’s either literally about aliens, or an analogy for the most alien status a human can achieve – that of being a celebrity (“Everybody wants them / until we meet them”).
Those two tracks are alternate between two of the bleakest ballads on the album: “Today Is The End” and “Holy For Tonight,” which see Ozzy reflecting on his legacy and last days. “It’s gonna be a long and lonely night,” he sings over gently ominous pianos on the latter song. “Tomorrow is my last goodbye, so I’ll be holy for tonight.”
After that heaviness, the penultimate track (Post Malone and Tom Morello -assisted freakout “It’s a Raid”) feels like a relief. The song is the stream-of-consciousness testament of a paranoid who’s had himself barricaded inside a building as police congregate outside. (The best part is Post’s one-word response to realizing he’s run out of cigarettes: “F*ck.”)
It’s almost haunting how absent Ozzy is on the album’s finale, gloomy hip hop ballad “Take What You Want.” Ozzy materializes to deliver the macabre opening verse and then disappears completely, ceding lead vocals to Post and rapper Travis Scott. The man of the hour never returns.
Against all odds, this foray into hip-hop avoids coming off as gimmicky; indeed, with its macabre lyrics and downbeat tone, it feels perfectly in sync with the rest of this metal masterpiece. “Take What You Want” is as grim as anything else on the album – but Osbourne’s risk-taking embrace of an entirely different genre suggests the beginning of something new and exciting. He’s not burning out, but passing the torch.
Seething with regret and self-hatred, Ordinary Man is not an easy listen. (Personally, I can’t even put it on as background music). But it might be Ozzy’s most powerful album yet.
Title: Ordinary Man
Artist: Ozzy Osbourne
- Straight To Hell
- All My Life
- Ordinary Man (feat. Elton John)
- Under The Graveyard
- Eat Me
- Today Is The End
- Scary Little Green Man
- Holy for Tonight
- It’s a Raid (feat. Post Malone)
- Take What You Want (Post Malone feat. Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott)