Twelve studio albums into her legendary career, Queen Chaka Khan hasn't lost her magic. But in an attempt to do it all, Hello Happiness loses its way.
Khan's distinctive voice still packs power. She delivers high-octane performances on "Like A Lady" and "Like Sugar," and showcases vocal dexterity on the vampy "Too Hot." On all seven tracks, Khan is agile enough to find a healthy balance between the age-old techniques that propelled her to stardom, and modern flourishes that keep her sound fresh. But UK producer Switch doesn't give her ….
Strange as it seems, Hello Happiness is the first originals-oriented Chaka Khan release since 1998's Come 2 My House. Whereas the aughts LPs ClassiKhan and Funk This were based on standards, covers, and updates, this EP is mostly new, created with a cast led by Sarah Ruba Taylor and partner Switch -- aka David Taylor, producer of M.I.A. and Major Lazer fame, not to be confused with the band who gave us Tommy and Bobby DeBarge.
The arrival of Chaka Khan's first studio album in 12 years, "Hello Happiness" (Diary Records/Island Records), poses some uncomfortable questions. Chief among them: Whose album is this, anyway? Producer David "Switch" Taylor boasts an impressive pedigree working with cutting-edge artists such as M.I.A. and Major Lazer. Along with his label partner, Sarah Ruba Taylor, he puts Khan in a contemporary context, though not without some cost.
O n paper, Chaka Khan's first album in 12 years could be read as another attempt by a vogueish producer (in this case, former Major Lazer member Switch, alongside songwriter/producer Sarah Ruba) to drag a genre-breaking legend into the sound of now. However, unlike Will.I.Am remixing Michael Jackson, or Giorgio Moroder allowing external producers to bastardise his trademark Europop on 2015's messy Déjà Vu, the seven-track Hello Happiness pays respect to Khan's funk and disco heydays, drawing a through-line via modern production's showy window dressing. The album arrives at an interesting juncture in Khan's career.