Black Messiah (album)

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Black Messiah
Studio album by D'Angelo & The Vanguard
Released December 15, 2014
Genre Soul, funk, R&B, rock
Length 55:54
Label RCA
D'Angelo & The Vanguard chronology
Black Messiah
Singles from Black Messiah
  1. "Really Love"
    Released: December 15, 2014

Black Messiah is the third studio album by recording artist D'Angelo,[1] and the first credited to D'Angelo and the Vanguard.[2] It was released on December 15, 2014, his first album since the critically acclaimed Voodoo, bringing to an end a 14-year hiatus.


Towards the end of the Voodoo tour in 2000, D'Angelo's issues towards performing worsened.[3] He became more conscious of and uncomfortable with his status as something of a sex symbol, and after the tour concluded he disappeared from the public eye. After the end of the tour in 2000, D'Angelo returned to his home in Richmond, Virginia.[4] Following the suicide of his close friend, MTV-affiliate Fred Jordon, in April 2001, he started to develop a drinking problem.[4] As his alcoholism escalated, plans for a live album and a Soultronics studio effort, both originally set for after the tour, were scrapped, and impatient Virgin executives cut off funding for the expected 2004 solo album.[4]

By 2005, D'Angelo's girlfriend had left him, his legal attorney had become displeased with him, and most of his family was not in touch with him.[4] He also parted ways with manager Dominique Trenier and tour manager Alan Leeds.[4] After a car accident and an arrest on DUI and marijuana possession charges, D'Angelo left Virgin Records in 2005 and checked into the Crossroads Centre rehabilitation clinic in Antigua.[4] In 2005, his recording contract was acquired by J Records,[5] following rumors of D'Angelo signing to Bad Boy Records.[6] Despite no solo output, D'Angelo collaborated with some R&B and hip hop artists during his period between albums,[4] appearing on other albums such as J Dilla's The Shining (2006), Snoop Dogg's Tha Blue Carpet Treatment (2006), Common's Finding Forever (2007), and Q-Tip's The Renaissance (2008).[7]


Electric Lady Studios (entrance pictured), where part of the album was recorded

D'Angelo's subsequent solo work was extensively delayed.[4] Production for a full-length follow-up to Voodoo was stagnant, as he was working on and off mostly by himself during 2002.[8] D'Angelo attempted to play every instrument for the project, striving for complete creative control similar to that of Prince.[4] Russell Elevado described the resulting material as "Parliament/Funkadelic meets the Beatles meets Prince, and the whole time there's this Jimi Hendrix energy".[4] However, those who previewed its songs found it to be unfinished.[4] In the years that followed, D'Angelo's personal problems worsened, descending to drug and alcohol addiction. In January 2005 he was arrested and charged with possession of marijuana and cocaine. Various mugshots began circulating around the time, showing the singer looking overweight and unhealthy, in stark contrast to the muscular D'Angelo seen in promotion for Voodoo.[9] In September 2005, a week after being sentenced on the drug charges, he was involved in a car accident, and was rumoured to be critically injured. However, a week after the crash a statement was issued by D'Angelo's attorney stating that he was fine continuing to say "He is anxious to finish the recording of his soul masterpiece that the world has patiently awaited. [10]

No more was revealed on the new album until 2007, when Questlove leaked an unfinished track on Triple J Radio in Australia. Entitled "Really Love", the track was an acoustic flavored jam with a laid back swing feel. The leak apparently soured relations between the two.[11] In 2009, D'Angelo's then-new manager Lindsay Guion, revealed plans for a new album, including collaborations with artists including Prince, Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, and John Mayer, and a summer tour, saying "He's able to smile again and he's ready to connect [with fans], he's coming back. And he looks great, by the way." As with the previous year, no tour or album materialized.[12] In early February 2010, a new track called "1000 Deaths" appeared on the Internet, but was swiftly removed due to a copyright claim by Michael Archer, D'Angelo's real name. The song seemed unfinished, and it is unclear how recent the material actually is, as the same song was mentioned in the same interview (see above) with Russell Elevado, in 2007. Around the same time, an article began to circulate on the Internet, which seemed to be an apparent review of 'James River', with detailed descriptions of individual songs, track listing, and segments of lyrics.[13] This caused much discussion regarding the authenticity of the article, or whether it was an elaborate hoax.

In January 2011, Russell Elevado updated the status of the album development on his website and stated that "Pino Palladino and James Gadson have joined D'Angelo [...] in New York City to finish cutting tracks for the upcoming album (yes, "THE" upcoming album!). We are officially making our way to finishing this record! I don't need to tell everyone that this will be an amazing album. D'Angelo fans will be extremely happy to know, the wait will be over soon and it will surely be a future classic" Russell Elevado updated the status of the album again on his own website. "Since my last post I have continued sessions with D'Angelo. we've just finished up 5 months of recording. D has been doing vocals and guitars and we've had Pino Palladino back in for some more bass tracks. Also ?uestlove came in to jam with D and Pino. They've finally reunited after 7 or 8 years (lost track how long really). We're taking a few months break while I take care of some other projects that have been on the back burner."[14]

In an interview published December 1, 2011, Questlove told Pitchfork, that the album was 97% done and D'angelo was "finishing his lyrics now." Questlove continued, comparing the album to a "black version of [The Beach Boys'] Smile-- at best, it will go down in the Smile/There's a Riot Goin' On/Miles Davis' On the Corner category. That's what I'm hoping for. There's stuff on there I was amazed at, like new music patches [keyboard sounds] I've never heard before. I'd ask him, "What kind of keyboard is that?" I thought it was some old vintage thing. But he builds his own patches. One song we worked on called "Charade" has this trombone patch that he re-EQ'd and then put through an envelope filter and then added a vibraphone noise on top and made a whole new patch out of it. He's the only person I know that takes a Herbie Hancock approach, or Malcolm Cecil and Robert Margouleff—the two musician/engineers who programmed all of Stevie Wonder's genius-period stuff—approach. That's the last time I ever heard of somebody building patches. We'll see if history is kind to it."[15] In 2012, he returned to performing live with his Occupy Music Tour and prepared his third studio album James River, whose recording had D'Angelo return to Electric Lady Studios.[16]


"Really Love" is a love song that opens with a "thunderous contrabass rumble and drone", over a string section floats along with a speaking in Spanish. Then, an acoustic guitar arrives with a flamenco riff and flourishes, followed by a beat, and the guitar continues as the song takes influence from Jazz. The song contains open spaces compared to thicker, tracks like '1000 Deaths' and 'Charade,' which allow room for intricate arrangements and woodwinds.[17]

Release and promotion[edit]

On September 1, 2012, D'Angelo performed at Jay-Z's Made In America festival. He performed two new songs: "The Charade" and "Sugah Daddy". On December 12, 2014, Kevin Liles, D'Angelo's manager, shared a 15-second teaser of the album on YouTube.[18] Two days later, the track "Sugah Daddy" premiered at 3am EST and 1,000 downloads were available on Red Bull's 20 Before 15 website.[19] According to Pitchfork, the track was part of his live setlist since 2012.[20]

Black Messiah was released on December 15th, 2014 following an exclusive listening party in New York. Initial availability was via iTunes, Google Play Music and Spotify. According to a report in the New York Times, D'Angelo decided to release the album in 2015 but the controversial decisions in the Ferguson and Eric Garner cases pushed him to go for an early release.[21] The album's surprise release was compared to Beyoncé's self-titled release in 2013. [22]


In late November 2011, D'Angelo announced a series of 2012 European tour dates.[23] The tour kicked off January 26 in Stockholm, Sweden[24] before heading to Copenhagen, Paris and Amsterdam on January 30 and 31.[25] The tour featured a selection of hits from his two albums, and even some songs from his album, which was reportedly close to completion.[26]

A second promotional European tour called The Second Coming, was announced in November 2014. D'Angelo's band, The Vanguard, will include drummer John Blackwell, bassist Pino Palladino, Jesse Johnson, Isaiah Sharkey, and keyboardist Cleo "Pookie" Sample. The tour starts in Zurich on February 11 and will run through the beginning of March, finishing the European sprint in Brussels on March 7.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
The A.V. Club A[27]
Chicago Tribune 3.5/4 stars[28]
Clash 9/10[29]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars[30]
Mojo 4/5 stars[31]
NME 9/10[32]
Pitchfork Media 9.4/10[33]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[34]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars[35]
Spin 9/10[36]

Black Messiah received widespread acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, it received an average score of 95, based on 18 reviews.[37] In a rave review for Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield hailed it as an experimental soul masterpiece,[34] while Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune said the album delves into unrefined funk and weighty themes without sounding overproduced.[28] NME magazine's Angus Batey called it one of the year's best albums and a richly detailed, enduring record that "repays a decade and a half's faith and patience".[32] Jon Pareles wrote in his review for The New York Times that Black Messiah showcases D'Angelo's musicianship "with all its glorious eccentricities".[38] Slant Magazine's Sam C. Mac said he combines funk, R&B, and rock with emotionally varied, socially relevant lyrics on an album that is "ever-worked, ever-tweaked, and perfected (in its distinctively imperfect way), but soul-bearing and raw like little else".[35]

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Lyrics Music Length
1. "Ain't That Easy"  
D'Angelo 4:49
2. "1000 Deaths"  
  • D'Angelo
  • Foster
D'Angelo 5:49
3. "The Charade"  
  • D'Angelo
  • Foster
4. "Sugah Daddy"  
  • D'Angelo
  • Q-Tip
  • Foster
5. "Really Love"  
  • D'Angelo
  • Foster
D'Angelo 5:44
6. "Back to the Future (Part I)"   D'Angelo D'Angelo 5:22
7. "Till It's Done (Tutu)"  
  • D'Angelo
  • Foster
D'Angelo 3:51
8. "Prayer"   D'Angelo D'Angelo 4:33
9. "Betray My Heart"   D'Angelo D'Angelo 5:55
10. "The Door"  
  • D'Angelo
  • Foster
D'Angelo 3:08
11. "Back to the Future (Part II)"   D'Angelo D'Angelo 2:24
12. "Another Life"  
  • D'Angelo
  • Foster
  • D'Angelo
  • Questlove
Total length:


Chart (2014) Peak
New Zealand Albums (Recorded Music NZ)[39] 30
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[40] 14


  1. ^ "D’Angelo has finished Black Messiah, his first new album in 14 years". Consequence of Sound. 2014-12-12. Retrieved 2012-12-13. 
  2. ^ "Kanye Weast on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  3. ^ "D'Angelo: What the Hell Happened?". SPIN. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Peisner, David. "Body & Soul". Spin: 64–72. August 2008.
  5. ^ Columnist. D'Angelo Working On J Records Debut. Retrieved on 2008-12-28.
  6. ^ PR. D'Angelo Signed to RCA Music Group (J Records). PRWeb. Retrieved on 2008-12-08.
  7. ^ "D'Angelo - Credits". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  8. ^ Elevado, Russell. Questlove. D’Angelo’s 'James River'. Quality Time. Retrieved on 2009-01-18.
  9. ^ "Tags: dangelo" (JPG). Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Harris, Chris (2005-09-27). "D'Angelo Says He's 'Fine' After Car Accident – Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  11. ^ "Body & Soul". Spin. 2008-08. Retrieved 16 December 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ "D'Angelo Plots Prince Collab, Spring Tour". Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  13. ^ "". 2008-11-05. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  14. ^ "Russell Elevado homepage". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "?uestlove Talks Michele Bachmann Fiasco, New D'Angelo Album | News". 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  16. ^ Ramirez, Erika (July 13, 2012). "D'Angelo Returns to Live Gigs - The Joice". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "KWL Management - A Kevin Liles Co.". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  19. ^ Trevor Smith. "D'Angelo Announces". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  20. ^ "D'Angelo Returns With New Track "Sugah Daddy" | News". Pitchfork. 2014-12-14. Retrieved 2014-12-14. 
  21. ^ "D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’ Was Released in Response to Protests". The New York Times. December 17, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "OKP News: D'Angelo Europe Dates Confirmed - Okayplayer Okayplayer". Okayplayer. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  24. ^ Rosie Swash. "D'Angelo – review". the Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  25. ^ "D'Angelo 2012 European Tour Dates Announced - Includes London Concert". Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  26. ^ "?uestlove Talks Michele Bachmann Fiasco, New D'Angelo Album". Pitchfork. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  27. ^ Fowle, Kyle (2014). "Review: D’Angelo’s long-awaited Black Messiah is devastatingly great". The A.V. Club (December 16) (Chicago). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  28. ^ a b Kot, Greg (2014). "D'Angelo is back: The 'Black Messiah' review". Chicago Tribune (December 17). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  29. ^ van Nguyen, Dean (2014). "D'Angelo And The Vanguard - Black Messiah". Clash (London) (December 17). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  30. ^ Roberts, Randall (2014). "Review: D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah' draws on history, sublime grooves". Los Angeles Times (December 16). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  31. ^ Elan, Priya (2014). "D'Angelo And The Vanguard – Black Messiah". Mojo (London) (December 16). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  32. ^ a b Batey, Angus (2014). "D'Angelo And The Vanguard - 'Black Messiah'". NME (London) (December 16). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  33. ^ Jenkins, Craig (December 19, 2014). "D'Angelo / The Vanguard: Black Messiah". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  34. ^ a b Sheffield, Rob (2014). "D’Angelo and the Vanguard's New Album Black Messiah". Rolling Stone (New York) (December 17). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  35. ^ a b Mac, Sam C. (December 17, 2014). "D'Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah". Slant Magazine. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  36. ^ Martins, Chris (2014). "D'Angelo, 'Black Messiah' Review". Spin (New York) (December 17). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  37. ^ "Reviews for Black Messiah by D'Angelo". Metacritic. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  38. ^ Pareles, Jon (2014). "Review: D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’". The New York Times (December 16). p. C1. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  39. ^ "D'Angelo And The Vanguard – Black Messiah". Hung Medien. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  40. ^ "D'Angelo And The Vanguard – Black Messiah" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved December 19, 2014.

External links[edit]