Sonically, “The Charade” borrows from Prince. Specifically, the mid ‘80s Revolution period. D’Angelo, of course, is his own man. And despite some sonic similarities, “The Charade” is more urgent, more black, than anything Prince recorded during his (admittedly amazing) Revolution years.
Understanding what D is singing about is a Herculean task, but all you really need to know about “The Charade” is in its refrain “all we wanted was a chance to talk/instead we only got outlined in chalk.” Coming as it did at the height of the most recent discourse about police brutality towards Black people, D managed to capture America’s anger during a specific moment in time and compress it into a perfect three minutes and 21 seconds.”The Charade” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” (to name specific examples from the two best albums of that particular year) gave me a place to put my frustration, anger and hope all throughout 2015.
I don’t watch Saturday Night Live very often, but you can bet I was on the couch for D’Angelo’s guest slot. He and his band (including Jesse Johnson, former guitarist of The Time as well as the late John Blackwell) delivered one of the most incendiary performances to ever take place on that stage with “The Charade.” Watching that again still gives me goosebumps.