My relationship with D’Angelo is complicated. I, like a solid chunk of Black America born between 1970 and 1985, freaked out when Black Messiah was dropped into our laps like an early Christmas gift. Why was I freaking out, though? While I certainly had respect for D’s talent, Voodoo (his previous album, released thirteen and a half years prior) didn’t move me the way it seemed to move lots of others whose musical opinions I highly respect. Here’s why I think I was so amped for D’s return.
-Soul music was in the shitter and I was looking for a savior. Or saviors. Man, if only I’d had a crystal ball to look three years into the future. Because we could definitely use a Black Messiah now. The album, I mean. Although an actual Black messiah to save this world from the hot boiling mess it’s currently in would be great, too.
-I kinda drank the Kool-Aid. The myth making machine worked overtime, building D’Angelo and Voodoo up to a point where my excitement overmatched my appreciation for his music. Which was high, but not like OMIGODDANGELOISAGODAMONGMENANDISTHEKINGOFALLSOULMUSIC high.
Anyway, Black Messiah stunned me by far exceeding my expectations. There’s just over two years left in the 2010s and I can’t think of any competition Black Messiah has for the decade’s best soul record. It’s solid from front to back, and stays in heavy rotation in my library despite being nearly three years old. “Another Life” is my second most played song from the album.
Giving off EW&F vibes without sounding like a pastiche (had D and Questlove added strings and horns, then it might have been a pastiche…but still a good one), “Another Life” closes Black Messiah perfectly. It’s the type of slow jam that hardly ever gets made these days. It’s got a sitar (I mean, that’s not the only thing that makes it stand out, but how many R&B records in the 21st century have sitars on them?) And D’Angelo might be second to El DeBarge in the “sure I can abuse my body for years on end and sing just as well as I did twenty years ago” Olympics. Bless him. Hopefully the new album arrives before 2034.