Released - 2020
Chart peak - UK #3, US #100

Visitors' rating (plurality): ★★★☆☆
Visitors' rating (rounded average): ★★★☆☆
Wayne's rating: ★★★☆☆

These star-ratings reflect how PSB albums compare to each other—not how they compare to albums by other artists. Remember that an "average" (three-star) PSB album is, at least as far as I'm concerned, an excellent album by pop/rock standards in general.

It was still fairly early in 2019 when the Pet Shop Boys announced that their next studio album, which they had previously suggested might be released in the autumn of that year, wouldn't see the light of day until early 2020. In September 2019 they confirmed that its release date had been set for January 24, 2020. Its title remained a mystery at that time, however, and they hinted that they themselves hadn't yet settled on one. They had seriously considered titling it Berlin since they had largely recorded it in the German capital, but then decided against it in view of Lou Reed's famous 1973 album of that name. The title they finally settled on, Hotspot, was announced to the world on November 14, 2019. According to the Boys, they chose the title Hotspot after their initial attempts failed to find a German term that would be meaningful to the rest of the world, particularly English-speakers. But in considering the city of Berlin, they recalled an article in which a journalist had described it as the "hotspot" of the Cold War. They then realized that "hotspot" carried other connotations as well, such as its more contemporary tech usage (as in a "wifi hotspot") and as an appealing venue for social gatherings. (A site visitor from Berlin also informed me that "hotspot" is common gay slang in Germany for a place where men gather after-hours for cruising and/or casual sexual activities. Whether this was known by the Boys or was a consideration in selecting the album title is uncertain at this time.) These multiple meanings clinched the deal—especially after they confirmed in the dictionary that "hotspot" was indeed one word (albeit, of course, derived from two), thereby befitting their tradition of single-word album titles.

Neil has described Hotspot as "a very enjoyable album to make." He has also noted that, since its first, second, and last tracks, respectively "Will-o-the-wisp," "You Are the One," and "Wedding in Berlin," all refer to the city of Berlin, it has the "feel" of a concept album. But he points out that this is not the case; there's no unifying "Berlin concept" except perhaps for what Neil refers to as the album's generally "murky" sound (not meant disparagingly), which he considers typical of recordings made in that city. Interestingly, it was that same murky sound that inspired the album's cover, with its similarly murky, blurred image of the Boys. This image—which was taken back in 2016 on Neil's cellphone, showing him and Chris standing in front of a rather poorly reflective surface (either that or a standard mirror image then digitally distorted)—further suggests the blurred visuals often caused by extreme heat, such as in a desert landscape. This also serves to harken back to the album's title.

An all-instrumental version of the album is available as the second disc with the special two-disc edition of Hotspot.

Shortly after completing the album, producer Stuart Price told Chris and Neil that he regards Hotspot as the best album that he's ever been involved with—high praise indeed. Since it completes their much discussed "trilogy" of albums helmed by Price (its predecessors of course being Electric and Super), Chris and Neil will presumably be on the lookout for a different producer for their next album. They have, however, stated in recent interviews that they're leaving open the possibility of working with Price yet again (either on their next album or sometime after that) because they enjoy working with him so much and they've liked the products of their collaborations. Whatever transpires, it will be most interesting to see what direction they next take.

Top Picks by Voter Ratings

  1. Will-o-the-wisp
  2. Burning the Heather
  3. Hoping for a Miracle

Wayne's Top Picks

  1. Will-o-the-wisp
  2. Monkey Business
  3. Dreamland

Note: The Japanese edition of the album adds two bonus tracks: the TWD Vocal Remix of "Dreamland" and the Prins Thomas Diskomiks of "Monkey Business."

Hotspot Instrumental

As with Elysium before it, a special-edition bonus disc offers the instrumental backings of each of the original album's tracks.