D’Angelo & the Vanguard | Black Messiah (RCA)

DAngeloandtheVanguard BlackMessiah_75_copy_copyWhat we have is an album that’s reminiscent of 90s soul, but nothing mind-blowingly spectacular.




I try not to buy into the hype of albums from social media or other sources. As a matter of fact, if I’m reviewing an album, I don’t even listen to that artist’s buzz because I don’t want to be expecting greatness and only get mediocre or so-so. But in the case of Black Messiah, I think the over-hype succeeded, and now what we have is an album that’s reminiscent of ’90s soul, yet nothing mind-blowingly spectacular.

In his 1990s prime, D’Angelo, was known for his vocals and his ability to sing in this high, sometimes howling, falsetto, but on tracks like “Ain’t That Easy” and “1000 Deaths,” it’s overpowered by the guitars and other instruments in the background. This is something I struggle with during the whole album. I wanted to hear him singing from his soul, but most times the drums, saxophone, and the like made it almost impossible to hear what the lyrics were.

After I got over this fact, I found that Black Messiah is filled with feel-good and thought-provoking lyrics, especially on tracks like “Till It’s Done,” “Really Love,” and “Prayer.” “I know he will try to harm you,” D’Angelo sings. “And if you can, I know that you will make it to the promise land/ But you got to pray, you got to pray. Oh, you got to pray for redemption/ Lord, keep me away from temptation, deliver us from evil.”

The album is also laced with spirituals in a sense that evokes you to reflect on your decisions and even ask for forgiveness for the wrongs you’ve done in life—whether to yourself or another. That sentiment is particularly evident on “Betray My Heart,” as D’Angelo repeats how he’ll never betray his heart with notions of false love. The vocal production on this song is awesome. The harmonies on the chorus and throughout the song inspire you to also take the pledge of being true to yourself.

Black Messiah comes together with the last four tracks, including “The Door,” “Back to the Future (Part II),” and especially “Another Life,” which is my favorite song on the entire 12-song project. There’s a smooth blend of vocals and music to where they are in perfect complement of one another.

In “Another Life” we get a glimpse of the quintessential, “Untitled” D’Angelo with whom we all fell in love, as he sings about this amazing girl he had in a past life, but right now the timing is all wrong and he would surely break her heart. He croons, “I just want to say to thee even though it might be hard to believe/ The candy-coated thoughts that drift in my sleep lets me know it’s you that holds the key…/ oh, in another life, I bet you wouldn’t know that/ Oh, in another life, I bet you were my girl.”

While Black Messiah is D’Angelo’s long-awaited album after 14 years, I wanted to be floored with everything and I just wasn’t. It was an okay album, but that’s just about it. C | Ashley White

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