Release Date: Dec 15, 2014
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): R&B, Soul, Funk
Notes toward a review of D’Angelo’s Black Messiah: The second coming, in Revelation, was supposed to have been foreseeable. There were to be clues arranged for the devout, so that preparations could be made.. Pop Out ➚.
Immediately following a grand jury's decision not to indict anyone in the death of Michael Brown (the first of two such outcomes involving unarmed black men killed by white cops in a two-week period), elusive R&B icon D'Angelo decided to surprise-emancipate the studio album he'd hoarded for at least a decade. Reportedly recorded on around 200 reams of analog tape, with his team still doing the math on what kind of budget that works out to, Black Messiah is ever-worked, ever-tweaked, and perfected (in its distinctively imperfect way), but soul-bearing and raw like little else. The album would be vital in any time, but in 2014, it's downright restorative.
Black Messiah has arrived and it has found us wanting. In certain religious denominations, churchgoers are familiar with the phrase, "He may not come when you want Him to, but He's always on time." It aptly suits the layered connotations of Black Messiah by prodigal neo-soul son D'Angelo. With little to no warning, it arrives to a congregation besieged, battle-worn, left hands-up and breathless by the tragic and tangled fates of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
At midnight on Dec. 15, 14 years dissolved. One key-stroke, and the mythic follow-up to D’Angelo’s Voodoo could be yours. Luxurious, raw, crashed-up, silky, a funky collage of sounds and grooves, Black Messiah takes listeners ever deeper into the dozen songs with repeated listening. More ….
With this week’s shock release of Black Messiah, soul singer and multi-instrumentalist D'Angelo, the man music critic Robert Christgau once earnestly dubbed "R&B Jesus," returns with his first album of new material in 14 years. It was not, as many have suggested, 14 years of silence. The last D'Angelo album, 2000’s Voodoo, was a near perfect communion of buttery soul, Crisco-fried funk, and hip-hop thump, but the video for its calling card ,"Untitled (How Does It Feel?)", a lingering, sensual glance over the singer’s face and chest, turned him into an unwitting sex symbol.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. It's safe to admit that much of the applause for Black Messiah is in part, down to the long wait fans have had to ensure. On occasion, fans can sometimes get swept up in the hype of an album's release - especially one that took fourteen years to arrive. Michael Eugene Archer's third album arrived right on time, it wasn't late nor was it rushed.
Let’s clear up something at the onset: Black Messiah would have been talked about all over the place no matter when it was released. Fans of D’Angelo waited… and waited… and waited some more for new music from him for years. They endured his troubles with the law, health issues, and struggles with his demons (all chronicled in a 2012 GQ profile).
The one-eighty Questlove promised back in 2012, when the drummer and producer persuaded D'Angelo to perform for the first time in a dozen years, turns out to be closer to a ten. As those who caught later gigs and subsequent uploads could attest, there were no signs that D'Angelo -- enigmatic maker of two classics that twisted gospel, soul, funk, and hip-hop with aloof but deep-feeling swagger -- was developing his third studio album with production pointers from David Guetta or elocution lessons from Glee's vocal director. Instead, he's made another album that invites comparisons to the purposefully sloppy funk of Sly & the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On.
D’Angelo’s last album, Voodoo, was released five days after Bill Clinton left office in January of 2000. He was 25 at the time and now he’ll soon turn 41. In the nearly 15 years that have passed since the release, it’s been easy to forget that D’Angelo’s sophomore album was long-in-the-making, delayed, and a bit mythical itself. NYU Professor and cultural critic Jason King wrote retrospective liner notes for a much-deserved vinyl reissue of the album in 2012, and in the more than 8000-word piece he paints D’Angelo as a sort of hermit—“distracted by weed and weightlifting”—in between those first and second albums.
Since the turn of the century, when he reinvented soul music with his second album, 2000’s ‘Voodoo’, all we’ve heard from D’Angelo were rumours: drugs and drink, car crashes and rehab, but – a couple of controversial leaks aside – no new music. Yet suddenly, the comeback some feared might never happen is here: and it’s every bit as special as anyone who fell for ‘Voodoo’ dared hope. Never mind the stories: Michael Eugene Archer has clearly spent the past 14 years perfecting his ability to make whatever kind of music crosses his mind.
“Ain’t no justice … just us. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” — D’Angelo, “Devil’s Pie” (Voodoo, 2000) Just as an urban hip-hop vibe lent depth and grit to D’Angelo’s soulful R&B and gospel roots, so too did fear and trepidation cloud the groundswell of ecstatic anticipation of the surprise release of his much-anticipated third album. Appearing almost out of nowhere, one couldn’t help but wonder how the 14 years of relative quiet had affected the mercurial but immensely talented singer.
Back in 2008, when Axl Rose famously called Dr Pepper’s bluff by finally releasing (inflicting?) Chinese Democracy on the world, the music press found itself in need of a new byword for any project that had been perennially delayed to the point of parody; James River seemed as worthy a candidate as any other. The promised third record from D’Angelo was obviously enduring a turbulent and painfully drawn-out gestation process, but unlike Chinese Democracy, financial difficulties and an erratic egotist were not at the centre of its troubles. In 2000 D’Angelo had released Voodoo, itself five years in the making after Brown Sugar had marked him out as a potentially pivotal figure in neo soul; the slinky, almost minimalist approach to R&B that defined his debut displayed genuine promise, but Voodoo still managed to utterly confound expectations.
Here's to messiahs worth waiting for. D'Angelo has kept the world fiending 14 years for the follow-up to his Crisco-thick R&B classic, Voodoo, but as the man himself purrs in "Sugah Daddy," "Can't snatch the meat out of the lioness' mouth/Sometimes you gotta just ease it out." Black Messiah shows how deep easy can go. D'Angelo and his band have built an avant-soul dream palace to get lost in, for 56 minutes of heaven.
Fourteen years of secrecy vanished in a flash Monday when m.i.a. soul star D’Angelo surprised the world with a whole new album. The now 40-year-old star released the full, 12 song “Black Messiah” to iTunes, after sharing a 15-second teaser for it on YouTube, and plugging it with some TV ad time, over the weekend. “Messiah,” which is credited to D’Angelo and the band The Vanguard, represents the star’s first new music since his smash “Voodoo” album back in 2000.
In a brief forward in the liner notes for "Black Messiah," the great new album from the soul artist known simply as D'Angelo, the creator declares his intentions with a dose of humility. "'Black Messiah' is a hell of a name for an album," he writes, explaining that the title of his first long-player in 14 years, and only his third in 19 years, might be misconstrued as being about religion or paint the artist as some sort of egomaniac. This is a modal window.
opinion by PETER TABAKIS < @ptabakis > Before we raise our collective palms to this glorious record, I want to begin with a not-so-quick digression. The Surprise Release has become a semi-regular fact of life. All kvetching aside (“oh look, a new U2 album”), as a music fan, it’s a godsend. Shortly after midnight on Monday, as I was calling to close another boring day, internet klaxons announced that D’Angelo’s new album, which was officially confirmed a couple days prior, was available to purchase and stream.
“I been wondering if I ever can again / If you’re wondering about the shape I’m in / I hope it ain’t my abdomen that you’re referring to,” D’Angelo sings on Back To The Future (Part 1), from the one-time R&B pin-up’s first album in 14 years. The past weighs heavily on Black Messiah, which picks ups where the 40-year-old’s Voodoo album left off. Having survived battles with addiction and a life-threatening car accident, D’Angelo is once again immersed in the sounds and textures of hardcore R&B, hip-hop, funk and Southern gospel.
What’s remarkable about Black Messiah, other than the fact that it actually exists, is how fresh D’Angelo sounds when slotted next to modern R&B artists. It’s the same trick The Roots pull off with every new album—sounding inherently classic yet completely of the present. There’s a thematic and sonic awareness to Black Messiah—credited to D’Angelo And The Vanguard—that makes it so much more than a long-delayed comeback album from an artist widely declared a genius some 15 years ago.
The distance D’Angelo created for himself over what’s now been nearly 15 years was always hard to reconcile. When something special slowly vanishes, it’s hard to wrap the mind around the whys. Singular talent has had a way of voluntarily disappearing over the past decade. The only way to explain Dave Chappelle walking away from his nominal sketch comedy show, when its powers were at such a height that Comedy Central showered him with $50 million, was to contemplate the reality that Chappelle couldn’t figure out how much of his audience was laughing with him, versus at him.
It’s been fourteen long years since D’Angelo dropped his abstract neo-soul masterpiece, Voodoo. And until last Sunday, when Black Messiah dropped unexpectedly at midnight, that was fourteen long years without any new music from the man many had once regarded as the saviour of modern soul. The intervening years were strange for D’Angelo: he had some brief and bizarre run-ins with the law; he experienced a near fatal car accident in 2005 (fucked up on booze and cocaine he flipped his Hummer off the road and stuck it into a fence in the middle of Virginia one night, breaking every rib on his left side in the process); he was twice in and out of rehab struggling with drink and drug addiction, and at least appeared to be suffering from a case of chronic writers block, among other things.
“Shut your mouth off and focus on what you feel inside,” D’Angelo sings at the outset of his third album, “Black Messiah” (RCA), which arrived unexpectedly this week. He heeds his own advice, with his vocals often buried, distorted or murmured as much as sung on his first full-length studio release since 2000. He sings beautifully, often in falsetto, but just as often his voice is another instrument, a texture, a series of tones that blends with a musical landscape of shadows and rhythm.
Few of us saw this coming. After over a decade of false starts, unsubstantiated promises, and seemingly endless teasing and taunting by colleague Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson, Michael Eugene Archer – better known to us as D’Angelo – returned seemingly overnight with a new album, and much of the music-listening world went collectively bonkers. Over the 14 years since D’Angelo dropped Voodoo, the man seemed to struggle with demons aplenty; from drug addiction, a solicitation arrest, a life-threatening car accident and the unrelenting demand and desire from fans to deliver new work, the task of creating a follow-up seemed Herculean in execution.
Soul fans have been waiting 14 years for D'Angelo to make more music after the impossibly great Brown Sugar LP and 2000's Voodoo. Back then D'Angelo was the high priest of what was dubbed neo-soul, among Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Guru's Jazzamatazz, J Dilla, The Roots, Jill Scott, Bilal and A Tribe Called Quest, who all dragged the roots of soul music and gave it a retro-futuristic twist. It was fresh, contemporary R&B, but steeped in 70s funk, bebop, hi-life and hip hop.
D’Angelo’s 14-year vanishing act ended decisively on midnight as Monday began when he released “Black Messiah,” his first new album since 2000. It’s not the kind of larger-than-life pop event and sharply etched public statement that “Beyoncé” delivered as last year’s December surprise. “Black Messiah” is a knotty, inward-looking, musicianly album made to reveal itself slowly.