I’m listening to this after enduring R. Kelly’s and Ricky Martins’ albums from the same month. And I must tell you, I feel like I’ve been saved.
Though I’m vaguely familiar with Badu through the pop culture ether and because of some guest appearances of hers (maybe with The Roots or somebody like that?) I really didn’t know much about her. So I was very pleased to hear this record. Yes, listening to it after those other two definitely meant I would like it, but I think I would have liked it anyway.
It’s a neo soul record with a fairly pronounced influence of Sly and Funkadelic, both bands I like. But, like the the best neo soul artists, this is just something to add to the pot. This is still very much a neo soul record, it’s just a little more vaguely psychedelic than the others I’ve heard.
Badu very much has her own voice and I cannot tell you how appreciated that is after listening to a gay Latin pop star pretending to be really horny for women. Regardless of my personal listening context, Badu’s voice feels distinct and unique and very much her own, whether it’s her distinct voice, the actual lyrics or her vocal playfulness – there’s a slight jazz influence in her willingness to depart from the lyrics.
She’s aided by the band, who rock out pretty hard on the opening track for example, and by a few pretty stellar guests.
Even though it’s really long – it’s basically a ’90s R&B record so she’s contractually obligated to make it too long – for the most part there is enough material to carry the length. If anything a few of the songs just run on slightly too long, it’s not like there is much actual filler.
This is what a soul album sounds like at the turn of the millennium. It incorporates hip hop influences but manages to preserve the essence of the genre, unlike so much slick R&B from the previous few decades. Great stuff.