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>I’m so happy about this. I just love it when an artist you love is starting to fall off to the point where you can’t defend them anymore, and than they release an album so good it makes you almost forget their past duds. It happened with Jay-Z last year, and this year Usher and Erykah Badu are making me a very proud fan.
Erykah Badu started her career 12 years ago with a totally new sound, a hybrid of Jazz R&B and Hip Hop, and the world appreciated her and the change she brought to the industry in the late 90’s. Than she released the phenomenal, yet criminally underrated “Mama’s Gun” and since than she’s been a big question mark. Her last two albums “Worldwide Underground” from 2003 and “New Amerykah Pt. 1: 4th World War” from 2008 were both very self-indulgent, and that’s putting it nicely. Those albums did have a few great cuts, but severely suffered from her not editing herself enough. Songs that might have started off good were ruined by going on way too long and meandering into more experimental territory. There were very few songs that people could actually relate to, and her political and philosophical standpoints seemed to be more important. Those two albums were just so disappointing to listen to, knowing that when she started people loved her because she was so relatable. It just seems like she forgot what initially made her hot.
Luckily, she seems to have remembered all of that while recording her now 5th album “New Amerykah Pt. 2: The Return of the Ankh“. She almost completely ditches the spacey and muddled experimental sound of her previous efforts to make a really cohesive set that is simple, sweet and breezy. There’s a strong Jazz influence on this album, which can best be displayed on the albums closer “Out of My Mind, Just in Time” which starts off as a very classic Jazz torch song, than turns into a very chill Be-Bop homage. There are a few instrumentals on this album that also prove her musical roots are definitely steeped in the different areas of Jazz, but she also has a lot of fun on this album incorporating contemporary Hip Hop and R&B elements into the very laid-back R&B/Jazz sound. “Turn Me Away (Get Munny)”, which she should definitely consider as a single, uses the familiar backing beat to Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s mid-90’s hit “Get Money” while “Fall in Love (Your Funeral)” replays the melody to Alicia Keys’ “Unbreakable”. However those songs don’t end with the sample or replayed portions, it grows and becomes totally new songs thanks to Badu’s lyricism which is at the same time fun, contemporary and very poetic even after all these years. Another great thing about this album is that while it’s familiar to her older Classic material, it never sounds like she’s forcing herself to recreate that old sound. She tries, and succeeds on almost every song, to push the envelope and try new things. The albums best song, and first single “Window Seat”, is really one her better songs of her career, and represents the album in a great way. Very breezy, very earthy, but very urban and fun at the same time, while showing her growth as a vocalist and writer.
Who knows what was going on with Badu these past few years. Her previous albums can even be seen as risky, at least she did stay true to her own vision and didn’t seem to compromise at all. However it looks like on this album, Badu reconnected with exactly what it was that made her such a force to be reckoned with when she debuted. She reconnected with the fact that her fans loved her music, they connected to her lyrics and her as a person more so as an artist. She went pretty far out there on her last two albums, and it seems on this album she’s come down to earth a little more. Which is a great thing, and I really hope this continues.
And I’m sure you’ve heard about it, but if you haven’t seen it here is the “controversial” video for this albums first single “Window Seat”. Read about the controversy here… apparently she might get charged with a misdemeanor for this.
It’s a little boring, but it’s a trip to see in her face that she’s really scared to do what she does at the end. And the guy who picked up her coat and shoes was hilarious. The message at the end is very cool though, and I give her props for being that risky for the sake of music.