Is DAngelo's new album Black Messiah good
The new album from D'Angelo : Come to my church
A 15 second teaser. The still image of a crowd. Black people with raised hands and fists, a bass rumble so deep that it could come from hell. A 1994 address by the controversial Nation of Islam activist Khalid Abdul Muhammad about the real Jesus with black hair. An American flag, mirrored, two words: Black Messiah.
One day later: Rumors that D’Angelo's new album is finally out - after 14 years. One single, "Sugah Daddy". Another day later: a listening session in New York. And then the album is actually there: D’Angelo is back. A wonder. Yes, actually: a miracle. Because “Black Messiah” (RCA / Sony) is a big album, without any nostalgia bonus or wishful thinking. And that, although inhuman - unearthly - expectations lie on him.
Questlove from the roots, practitioners and theorists of black music, once called these expectations the “curse of the black genius”: black artists who create something epoch-making, come under pressure, fall and then often never get up again. Richard Pryor, Lauryn Hill, David Chappelle, Ralph Ellison. And D’Angelo, with whom Questlove has worked since the beginning of his career.
With just two albums and one tour, the now 40-year-old earned the reputation of "R-’n’-B-Jesus" in the nineties. His debut "Brown Sugar" established him in 1995 as a great talent, the album of the century "Voodoo" from 2000 generated admiration that bordered on admiration. Seemingly completely naked, he sang about sex and nothing else in the video for “Untitled”.
This was called neo-soul - a music that sought modern approaches to old attitudes and sounds. The core artists of the genre were then organized as "Soulquarians". They never made a joint album, but at least a group picture that can easily become melancholy when looking at it. Because the ranks are thinned out: Mos Def and Common got lost in experiments, Erykah Badu has not made an album for four years. The roots are the jam clowns for Jimmy Fallon. J Dilla has died.
It's about love, hope and redemption in the deep night
And above all there are D’Angelo and the void he has left. In 2001 he disappears, gets fat, takes drugs. After years of self-destruction, he has been venturing back into public since 2012, giving concerts - his voice is in good condition - and declaring that there will be a new album.
"Black Messiah" is his freest work so far. D’Angelo has a sound in his head - a room, almost a chamber. Musical Feng Shui. He instinctively distributes bass, brass and drums around the room. Its secret are the pauses, the silence, the gaps. On "Voodoo" it was a bedroom, on "Black Messiah" it was a prayer room. First it was about sex, now it's about love, hope, redemption in the deep night.
"As the day must have its sun / And the night must have its moon / Sure as both must rise and fall / I'll be there to see you through," affirmed D'Angelo in "Betray My Heart" - it is very much close to "As", the heart of Stevie Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life". From soul music, D’Angelo seems to have learned not only to write love songs, but also to love itself.
Again and again a bright, hopeful piano can be heard, as we know it from the sixties by Ramsey Lewis: a gospel piano. "Church music, meaning soul church music - not Bach chorals, that's different" was what Cannonball Adderley once called half ironically one of his pieces - and in 1972 he released an album called "The Black Messiah".
You can drown in such references, but the album is not black music bingo, but a necromancy. D’Angelo speaks to his heroes, his friends, his enemies, his former self. They're all somehow no longer there.
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