In 2011 I wrote about seeing R. Kelly in London after a lengthy absence from the UK. Last night, I had the chance to see D’Angelo who also had a very lengthy absence from the public eye (to a certain extent).
He brought us Brown Sugar and Voodoo with a few collaborations in between with the likes of Lauryn Hill and Raphael Siddiq. And then there was the arrest with the horrible mugshot that had all of us ladies asking where did our modern day David go? His perfectly chiseled body had morphed into something unrecognizable to his fans.
What did you do with my D’Angelo and most importantly what happened to the music? He was not a 2 hit wonder. He had more talent to give and we were left thirsty and devoid of some great music for almost 15 years.
Around 2011/2012 he started touring again. Finally he was back, but D’Angelo sightings were few and far between. It was like he was a ghost of neo soul’s past that occasionally haunted us from time to time. Then…it was announced…he would be the headline at the Afro Punk Festival in Brooklyn (August of 2014). It was free and relatively close to home. Finally my chance to see this enigma that is D’Angelo.
I stood amongst the eclectic crowd patiently waiting for his debut on stage. We waited and waited. When he did appear, he stepped out on stage like a rockstar and not some smalltime, sleepy R&B crooner. He sat behind the keyboard on a few songs but he also stepped to the front of the stage while playing the guitar.
While the crowd cheered and swayed to the music, the playlist was devoid of songs from his first two albums (albeit a few interludes in between songs). For some it was a disappointment. There was too much gap to introduce something new. Give us the old stuff and then maybe we can embrace the new stuff. I will admit, I was a tad disappointed but I got to see D’Angelo backed by the Roots Band. I didn’t care if he was singing Mary Had a Little Lamb.
Then D’Angelo fans received an early Christmas present as the Black Messiah was released mid December. I couldn’t wait to download it on Spotify, my streaming service of choice. “Would it sound more like Brown Sugar? Or perhaps Voodoo?”
As I listened I sensed that he had moved on from Brown Sugar. It was however in the spirit of Voodoo to the 3rd power filled with ballads including “Really Love”; the funk of “Chicken Grease” was embodied in “Sugah Daddy”; and the consciousness of “Devil’s Pie” received a 2014 twist with “1000 Deaths”.
My stepfather (sorry to put you on blast) said he didn’t enjoy the new album because he didn’t understand what D’Angelo was saying. Did anyone know what Michael Jackson was saying without the liner notes? Some said oh he is on some “other shit”. The reality is many failed to see the bridge or connection between the two albums and were looking for another Brown Sugar.
With many artists, their first album is a bit of a compromise between their artistic integrity and making the record company happy. Brown Sugar really fit the mold and the feel of neo soul music at the time. While Vodoo had some remnants of that it was a little more daring and esoteric than most neo soul albums when it czme out. With Black Messiah, it’s not surprising that he took what many would consider a giant left turn with his music.
In just a few short weeks, the album was rated by some as one of the top albums of 2014. When I heard he was coming to Philadelphia, there was no way I was going to miss the show. From the moment he stepped on stage it was a party and I felt like I was back at the R Kelly concert I attended years ago in London. He danced, had a few “outfit changes”, high fived audience members, and switched between the guitar and keyboard all while keeping the crowd on their feet for almost 2 hours. He mixed the old songs with the new and for the most part he sang them exactly like the album. I know it must get boring singing the same song again and again, but that is what the fans want and that is what he gave us (take a page out of his book Lauryn Hill).
When I posted a picture of the 2015 D’Angelo, my friends were a bit surprised. Although he looked 10 times better than that God awful mugshot, he was still a fry cry from the man who graced his album cover in the buff 14 years ago.
It didn’t matter. Women (including myself) were screaming from start to finish!
He, like R Kelly are living proof that famous people are not immune to problems like the rest of us. We all have our demons, but how we overcome our obstacles in the long run really demonstrates our character and determines the path for our future. I, like the rest of his fans, hope that his absence was one blip in a long musical career.
I’ll leave you with the a clip from the 2nd encore where he ended with his song “Untitled”. If there was any doubt if he still “has” it or not, this clip certainly proves he still has it.
**please ignore my screaming**