Truth be told, many people have heard of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan— but most people don’t know about his solo career.
And it’s a shame, because if you have enjoyed the Smashing Pumpkins outside of their two most popular albums (Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness), you will most likely find a lot to appreciate and love in his solo work.
After the Pumpkins originally broke up in 2000 (and his second, short-lived super-group called “Zwan” blossomed and disintegrated), Billy Corgan finally made his first solo venture as a musician, with 2005’s debut of The Future Embrace.
In the present, the Smashing Pumpkins have since reformed and revived, and Billy has followed up with two more solo albums since then (2017’s Ogilala and 2019’s Cotillions, respectively), but the genesis of his solo career began eighteen years ago, and I’m telling you, The Future Embrace is full of beautiful gems that rival the works of his well-known band.
If ocean waves of sound washing over you is your thing, this is an album for you.
Keeping in line with its title, the whole feel of the album feels futuristic and electronic, which he uses like brush strokes on a painting, creating multiple layers of depth and emotion.
In typical fashion, the themes are intensely emotional, but also very spiritual.
The album kicks off with the song “All Things Change.” A simple, but poetic statement of philosophical truth, it ponders the transitory nature of life.
It is immediately followed by the determined, yet haunted, “Mina Loy,” which explores the power of love in a world torn by war and violence, as Billy asks “can I give my old heart to you?”
Another spiritual statement of truth jumps from the song as he pauses and proclaims “Alright! The end’s in sight! We’re born to die a thousand times.”
Maybe you don’t believe in reincarnation, or maybe you do, but a heart can certainly die many times over. The same “old heart” he wants to give to you.
You see, he’s not necessarily singing about romantic love — he’s singing about universal love. Love for humanity. Love for each individual. Divine love embodied in mortal flesh.
This is not to say the album doesn’t have its moments that could be considered deeply romantic. One of its highlights is a cover of “To Love Somebody,” by the Bee Gees. But instead of a standard cover, they did something amazing with this song by transforming it from the sort of happy-go-lucky sound of the original to something heavily tinged with profound sadness. And it features The Cure’s Robert Smith, because who else would you get for something beautiful and sad?
"You don't know what it's like,
you don't know what it's like,
to love somebody, to love somebody, the way I love you"
"To Love Somebody" (originally by The Bee Gees) - The Future Embrace
Not gonna lie…the first time I listened to The Future Embrace, I cried by the time I got to this song.
I mean, really broke down in tears.
Because I got it.
The words, the meaning, the message of this beautiful album — it is profound.
While “To Love Somebody” was assuredly originally written about romantic love- in the larger context of this album, it could be about any kind of love. And the way Billy Corgan and Robert Smith sang this song speaks to the depths of something sacred, deep, and rare.
Listen to the words. See how they can apply to both romance and something greater for all humanity.
It speaks of love that is more than something ordinary, but only experienced by those who have awakened to the greater truth of a divine reality — whether it be towards an individual person, or people as a whole.
And this is the kind of love that creates the sadness and loneliness portrayed in their version — because when you love to such profound depths that others cannot understand, you realize you are alone, but long for others to be where you are, so that they can be with you.
If you’ve got a minute — go do a quick search and listen to this song right now. It probably won’t hit you the same way it hit me (because I was already in a state of mind to receive it when I heard it), but I’m sure you’ll get the idea.
And honestly, even though the song is a cover, I think it’s one of the best things Billy Corgan and Robert Smith have ever done because it is just so darn beautiful in its simplicity, but staggering in the depth of meaning they gave to it.
I could tell you more about the profound spiritual messages of this album, the haunting beauty of its songs, and the soul-searing poetry of its lyrics, but I’ll leave it for you to discover and experience for yourself (or to experience again, if you’ve already listened).
But one last interesting detail: Billy Corgan’s work is often ahead of its time. He will often write music that, when it is first released, tends to go over the heads of a lot of people, only to grow on them over time and eventually become a “classic.” The Smashing Pumpkins’ Adore, considered career suicide when it was released in 1998, is one such example. It is now hailed as a masterpiece.
The Future Embrace was largely ignored when it was released in 2005. Mainly only hardcore fans bought it. And while its title probably refers to something a lot more romantic and relevant to its message, I feel it also bears a great irony: that although it was ignored in its time, a future day will come when it will be looked at again and people will finally see it, and “embrace” it for the amazing album it is.
And maybe you can be among the first.