It’s been 14 years since the world has heard from D’Angelo musically. He has of course, been in the background working methodically on what is his third studio album. Black Messiah, as it is poignantly titled is a project that is intensely funky, and rewarding. As cliché as it sounds, it gets better with each listen as wine does with each sip. The album is personal, while also catering to the profound notability that captured audiences when he first debuted on the R&B scene back in 1995 with Brown Sugar.
The up-tempo, “Ain’t That Easy,” hearkens to a Sly and The Family Stone sonicism. The singer has been performing it live for some time now while on sabbatical from the studio. D’Angelo’s scratchy tone harmonizes superbly within the beat. “The Charade” accomplishes what it sets out to do – be slick in its smoothness but equally as saturating with its politically charged lyricism. The guitar, which leads the way makes for a timeless vibe similar to what D’Angelo presented on Voodoo.
Upon listening to “Sugah Daddy,” which is another cut that D’Angelo has performed a snippet of before, there are tinges of Brown Sugar’s dexterous production. His vocals are sensitively soulful while maintaining a George Clinton-esque character. Funk seems to be the undertone as the listener is given a full on perspective into what a jam session with D’Angelo sounds like.
“Really Love” dives into the quiet storm talent that the singer is a master of. The song is neo-soul combined with flamenco. “Till It’s Done (Tutu)” keeps with the growling and funk pulsations that Black Messiah is built on. D’Angelo’s falsetto is heavily prevalent and is the catalyst for the social commentary musings. “Another Life” closes out the 12 song album. It glows with the jazzy eccentricities that once again affirm and reaffirm D’Angelo’s place in the history of R&B music – and in music in general.
Upon concluding Black Messiah, the listener may feel a smile come upon their face. A smile that a singer who was described as a blend of attitude and classic soul is back on the scene. The rhythmic, gospel crooner that can easily be compared to a 21st century Sam Cooke and Donny Hathaway rolled into one is emphatic throughout each of the narratives featured here as if the passage of time between this project and the last should be a mere afterthought rather than the reality. Black Messiah is no Voodoo or Brown Sugar, but it does not try to be. It instead reignites a melodic presence that is missing from a substantial amount of music these days. There is a hope that we won’t have to wait another 14 years for D’Angelo to make a fourth album.
Black Messiah receives a PARLÉ