Few artists in pop are one-offs. Few ambush audiences on their arrival and remain in their minds, even as music moves on. Few both set trends and transcend them, as much with their style as their songs.
No one who encountered Marilyn in the ‘80s could forget him. It was his wit as much as his glamour, his sense of wonder as much as his soul, his innocence as much as his attitude that made him so compelling. The way that Marilyn – a vanguard of the androgynist look, the punk and New Romantic fashion scene – pioneered cross-dressing, paved the way for the transgender culture that pervades today and had the best hair in pop goes without saying. His return – sharper, smarter, more honest than ever – was merely a matter of time.
Love Or Money, the first new Marilyn song for too long, marks a fresh start rather than a comeback. Written and recorded with best friend Boy George, it’s a sun-soaked introduction to the singer’s new sound, a laid-back blend of reggae, summer soul and those distinctive vocals set firmly to sultry. Crucially, it’s a sound that pays homage to the music of Marilyn’s youth.
‘I was born in Jamaica, spent the early years of my life there and have duel English/Jamaican citizenship. Reggae has always been a huge part of my life, but I’d never thought to incorporate it in to my own music before. It was George who suggested going back to my roots, taking inspiration from the rhythms of the islands that remind me of my childhood.’
With a sound decided, the songs came quickly. Love Or Money was the first one written at co-writer and producer, John Themis’s studio in north London.
‘I wish I could say it was recorded in the Caribbean,’ laughs Marilyn. ‘Believe me, I tried! But it was such an easy, organic song to write that it didn’t much matter where we were. We got great live musicians to play on it and it definitely has that islands vibe.’
As for the lyrics, Marilyn won’t spill. They could be about his friendship with Boy George or his sometime tumultuous relationship with himself. They might be about neither.
‘They’re about whatever the listener decides. They could be about your relationship with your bank. What I love about lyrics is that they’re subjective. I know what they mean to me because I wrote them, but whatever they mean to you works too.’