Diana Ross' Thank You, her first album in 15 years, is a love letter to fans
Twenty-two years is an eternity for an artist who changed the face of music to stay silent. But with the preciousness of time in stark focus due to the pandemic — and likely sensing that her window for making another project was closing — Diana Ross is seizing the moment. Thank You, the 77-year-old diva's first studio album of original material since 1999's Every Day Is a New Day, is a love letter to fans and a display of immense gratitude for what Ross has been able to achieve over the last six decades.
"All Is Well," co-written by Ross's oldest daughter, Rhonda, is like a silky blanket to crawl under when you need sweet comfort and positive affirmations. The euphoric twirler "If the World Just Danced" — with its infectious world-beat inflections reminiscent of Janet Jackson's 2018 single "Made for Now" — sounds different than anything else this Rock & Roll Hall of Famer has ever done before. And the folky feels of "In Your Heart" show how, when stripped down to the bone, Ross still has a voice that has been sorely underrated in the era of gospel-powered singers like Aretha, Gladys, and Chaka.
Ross — who has never been much of a songwriter, save for the odd turn like 1981's aerobics romp "Work That Body" — co-wrote nine of 13 tracks on the album, which may be more than she's done her entire career. In a way, that makes Thank You the most authentically Diana Ross album ever — even if she didn't lift a pen for two of its best songs: "The Answer's Always Love," which was co-written by Siedah Garrett, who captures some of the heal-the-world uplift that she did on Michael Jackson's epic "Man in the Mirror, and the Jack Antonoff-produced "I Still Believe," which Ross turns into her own disco manifesto a la "I Will Survive."
But Thank You's syrupy Pollyannaish sentiments wear thin on the project's back half, with throwaway lyrics such as "I will do anything to keep the boogeyman away." The last few cuts in particular feel like outtakes that could have been saved for the record's deluxe version. If only Ross took the less-is-more route she did on her two best albums, 1979's The Boss and 1980's Diana, each of which had only eight tracks.
Still, Thank You is a powerful showcase for how good Ross is even after a two-decade absence. It also achieves her ultimate goal: to provide a light in troubling times. As she sings on the glowing title track: "We survived the highs and lows, sometimes that's how life goes, but together I know we'll make it. I wouldn't change a single day." Grade: B