Seven Questions with Boy George

The singer on the return of Culture Club, mentoring on The Voice and how pop music has changed.

Boy George.Ian Caramanzana | Vegas Seven

You began in 1982 with global hits “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” and the album Kissing to Be Clever. What’s it like returning to the stage with the original band?

I always look forward to those two hours. There have been these long gaps, and people sort of forget who you are and what you do. So it’s kind of fun to have a chance to surprise people. If we weren’t better than we were 20 years ago, something’s wrong.

What kind of surprises?

We do a few newthings. We do Bowie covers and T-Rex covers. We do a deconstructed version of “The War Song.” I joked onstage the other day that we’ve sort of done what Eric Clapton would have done if he was working with Calvin Harris. There are songs that you write when you’re 19, in those times where you are full of your own self-importance and you’re completely consumed by love—then at 55 you approach those songs obviously in a very different way. I can approach those songs with a bit more wisdom and experience and they still resonate with me— particularly “Victim” and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me.”

Your musical sound is very pop/new wave, but vocally your style is reminiscent of classic soul artists. How did you come up with that mix? Who are your musical influences?

I grew up listening to everything because I’m a Gemini— everything from Dolly Parton to Anthrax. I grew up listening to glam rock, classic soul. I’m constantly excited by new things, old things and things that [I had] forgotten. It all feeds into my brain and comes out as itself. Music is always in everything that I do. Whether it’s fashion or DJ’ing, it’s always there.

What was it like being a mentor on the British version of The Voice?

It was a lot of fun. It’s quite exciting to be around young artists who are just beginning their journey and, if you can give some wisdom, that’s amazing. But what you find is that a lot of young people—and I was one of them—they don’t listen. When you’re that age you just think that you know everything, and that is partly what makes people into stars. You just have to let people be who they are, let people make mistakes. You get to the point in the show where the public starts to vote, and then it starts to make no sense whatsoever. You realize that if the audience were allowed to dictate the art form, you would never have Boy George or David Bowie or Prince or any of those people. The stars of the world come along, and they’re like these flowers that grow through the cracks. Initially you’re not quite sure if it’s what you need, but then you realize at a certain point that you can’t live without it, that it’s essential to your spiritual growth and that’s what’s exciting about pop music.

How has pop music changed?

Every generation sees it differently. It feels like everybody knows the formula now, everybody knows how to make the perfect star. And that makes for a predictable pop culture. I don’t really know what you can do about that because people of my generation, my age are not given a platform. Some of the most exciting people are in their 50s—I’m one of them. A lot of people start making their best music in their 50s.

So it’s less experimental?

We live in the age of formula now. Everything’s a formula— it’s generic, and everybody’s trying to be like Adele or whoever’s selling the most records. People aren’t really fighting to be individuals anymore. It’s like the ’50s where you had a team of writers [creating] songs for performers. What we have now are a lot of performers—not really artists—but people who are great singers, great performers, but they’re not really setting a lifestyle, a moment.

Do you enjoy visiting Las Vegas?

I was there recently for the opening of Lionel Richie’s residency—he’s a friend. I love Vegas. I go to shows and eat too much. Stay up late, sleep all day, you know, the usual shit that you do. Vegas is great with the lights off.

Culture Club

Aug. 21, 8 p.m., The Pearl at the Palms, $64-$165, 702-944-3200, Palms.com.

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