Black Messiah (album)

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Black Messiah
Black Messiah.jpg
Studio album by D'Angelo and The Vanguard
Released December 15, 2014
Studio Electric Lady Studios in New York City
Genre
Length 55:54
Label RCA
Producer
D'Angelo and The Vanguard chronology
Voodoo
(2000)
Black Messiah
(2014)
Singles from Black Messiah
  1. "Really Love"
    Released: December 15, 2014
  2. "Betray My Heart"
    Released: June 9, 2015

Black Messiah is the third studio album by American recording artist D'Angelo.[1] It was released on December 15, 2014, through RCA Records, bringing an end to his 14-year hiatus.

Black Messiah was among 2014's most highly anticipated albums and was released to commercial success. The album was also met with rave reviews from music critics, who praised the album's socially relevant lyrics and its use of multiple genres. The album was ranked as one of the best albums of 2014 by several publications.

The album debuted at number five on the U.S. Billboard charts and number one on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, selling over 117,000 units in its first week. Black Messiah was promoted with the release of the single "Really Love" and a tour called The Second Coming.

Background[edit]

D'Angelo released his critically acclaimed album Voodoo in 2000. Towards the end of his worldwide tour in support of the album that same year, D'Angelo had personal issues towards performing that worsened.[2] He became more conscious of and uncomfortable with his status as something of a sex symbol, and after the tour D'Angelo returned to his home in Richmond, Virginia, disappearing from the public eye.[3] Following the suicide of his close friend, MTV-affiliate Fred Jordan, in April 2001, he started to develop a drinking problem.[3] 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.[3]

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.[3] He also parted ways with manager Dominique Trenier and tour manager Alan Leeds.[3] 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.[3] In 2005, his recording contract was acquired by J Records,[4] following rumors of D'Angelo signing to Bad Boy Records.[5] Despite no solo output, D'Angelo collaborated with some R&B and hip hop artists during his period between albums,[3] 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).[6]

Recording[edit]

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

D'Angelo's subsequent solo work was extensively delayed.[3] Production for a full-length follow-up to Voodoo was stagnant, as he was working on and off mostly by himself during 2002.[7] D'Angelo attempted to play every instrument for the project, striving for complete creative control similar to that of Prince.[3] Russell Elevado described the resulting material as "Parliament/Funkadelic meets the Beatles meets Prince, and the whole time there's this Jimi Hendrix energy".[3] However, those who previewed its songs found it to be unfinished.[3] 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.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[12] 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."[13]

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."[14] In 2012, he returned to performing live with his Occupy Music Tour and prepared his third studio album, whose recording had D'Angelo return to Electric Lady Studios.[15]

In late November 2011, D'Angelo announced a series of 2012 European tour dates.[16] The tour kicked off January 26 in Stockholm, Sweden[17] with its final show on February 10.[18] The tour featured a selection of hits from his two previous albums and songs from his upcoming album, which was close to completion.[19] He premièred 4 new songs: "Sugah Daddy", "Ain't That Easy", "Another Life" and "The Charade" which were well received. On September 1, 2012, D'Angelo performed at Jay-Z's Made In America festival where he again performed the new songs, "The Charade" and "Sugah Daddy".

Release and promotion[edit]

D'Angelo originally wanted to release Black Messiah in 2015, but the controversial decisions in the Ferguson and Eric Garner cases inspired him to release it earlier.[20] On December 12, 2014, Kevin Liles, D'Angelo's manager, shared a 15-second teaser of the album on YouTube.[21] Two days later, the track "Sugah Daddy", which had been part of D'Angelo's set list since 2012,[22] premiered at 3am EST and 1,000 downloads were available on Red Bull's 20 Before 15 website.[23] After an exclusive listening party in New York, Black Messiah was released digitally on December 15 through iTunes, Google Play Music, and Spotify.[citation needed] The album's unexpected release was compared to Beyoncé's self-titled release in 2013.[24] On January 13, 2015, "Really Love" was released to urban adult contemporary radio in the US.[25]

In its first week of release, Black Messiah debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 and sold 117,000 copies in the United States.[26] In its second week, the album dropped to number twenty five on the chart and sold another 40,254 copies.[27] In the United Kingdom, it debuted at number 47 on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 7,423 copies.[28]

D'Angelo is supporting Black Messiah with a tour called The Second Coming. His band, The Vanguard, includes drummer Chris Dave, bassist Pino Palladino, guitarists Jesse Johnson and Isaiah Sharkey, vocalist Kendra Foster and keyboardist Cleo "Pookie" Sample. The European leg commenced in Zurich on February 11, 2015, and concluded in Brussels on March 7.

"Betray My Heart" is set to be released to urban adult contemporary radio in the US as the album's second single.[29]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[30]
The A.V. Club A[31]
Robert Christgau A–[32]
The Independent 4/5 stars[33]
Los Angeles Times 4/4 stars[34]
NME 9/10[35]
Pitchfork Media 9.4/10[36]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[37]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars[38]
Spin 9/10[39]

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 30 reviews.[40] In a rave review for Rolling Stone, Rob Sheffield hailed the album as an experimental soul masterpiece,[37] while Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune said it delves into unrefined funk and weighty themes without sounding overproduced.[41] NME magazine's Angus Batey appraised it as one of the year's best albums and a richly detailed, enduring record that "repays a decade and a half's faith and patience".[35] Black Messiah also received comparisons to Sly and the Family Stone's 1971 funk album There's a Riot Goin' On.[32] Jon Pareles wrote in his review for The New York Times that it recalls that album because of the heavily multitracked vocals, the unpredictable flow of the music, and its roots in funk, rock, jazz, and gospel traditions, even though it highlights D'Angelo's own musicianship "with all its glorious eccentricities".[42] 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".[38]

In a review for The Guardian, journalist Paul Lester deemed Black Messiah to be as much a socially-conscious work as "a restatement of faith in the principles and sounds of the pre-digital era of black music",[43] while Priya Elan of Mojo praised it as "a beaming, single-minded statement of spiritual rebirth and political reckoning" that finds D'Angelo appropriately political amid the 2014 Ferguson unrest.[44] Will Hodgkinson, the chief critic for The Times, claimed he has revived soul music's "testifying spirit" with an album that addresses the African-American experience at a time when there has been no "musical response to the killing of unarmed black men by American policemen this year".[45] Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic in his review and felt other critics had exaggerated just "how profoundly D'Angelo articulates his racial awareness and romantic struggle", although he praised the unique, dense jazz-funk highlighted by Palladino and Questlove, who are as musically intuitive and virtuosic as "anyone in the pop sphere".[32] Andy Gill of The Independent argued that Black Messiah shares the "enervating confusion" of There's a Riot Goin' On, as it better contextualizes questions of individual and political freedom than answers them.[33]

At the end of the year, Black Messiah was voted the best album of 2014 in the Pazz & Jop, an annual critics poll run by The Village Voice.[46] It was also ranked first by Chris Richard of The Washington Post,[47] eighth best by Sheffield from Rolling Stone,[48] and seventeenth best by Christgau in his top-albums list for The Barnes & Noble Review.[49]

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
3:20
4. "Sugah Daddy"  
  • D'Angelo
  • Q-Tip
  • Foster
5:02
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
5:58
Total length:
55:54

Personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from liner notes.[50]

  • D'Angelo - vocals, guitar (tracks 1-6, 8, 10, 11), keyboards (1-6, 8, 9, 11), piano (3, 4, 12), bass (2, 10), organ (7), sitar (12)
  • Spanky Alford - guitar (6, 9, 11)
  • Jesse Johnson - guitar (1, 3, 8, 10, 12)
  • Mark Hammond - guitar (5)
  • Isaiah Sharkey - guitar (1, 3, 4, 7, 12)
  • Pino Palladino - bass (1, 3-9, 11, 12), sitar (3)
  • Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson - drums (2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12)
  • James Gadson - drums (1, 4, 5)
  • Chris Dave - drums (8)
  • Kendra Foster - background vocals
  • Jermane Holmes - background vocals
  • Ahrell Lumzy - background vocals
  • Brent Fischer - conductor
  • Russell Elevado - mixing, engineering
  • Ben Kane - mixing, engineering
  • Tony Rambo - engineering
  • Dave Collins - mastering
  • Alex De Turk - mastering (vinyl)

Charts[edit]

Chart (2014) Peak
position
Australian Albums (ARIA)[51] 50
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[52] 17
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[53] 36
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[54] 8
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[55] 14
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[56] 30
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[57] 35
UK Albums (OCC)[58] 47
UK R&B Albums (OCC)[59] 4
US Billboard 200[60] 5
US Top Tastemaker Albums (Billboard)[61] 1
US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)[62] 1

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  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. ^ "D'Angelo: What the Hell Happened?". SPIN. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Peisner, David. "Body & Soul". Spin: 64–72. August 2008.
  4. ^ Columnist. D'Angelo Working On J Records Debut. HHNLive.com. Retrieved on 2008-12-28.
  5. ^ PR. D'Angelo Signed to RCA Music Group (J Records). PRWeb. Retrieved on 2008-12-08.
  6. ^ "D'Angelo - Credits". Allmusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  7. ^ Elevado, Russell. Questlove. D’Angelo’s 'James River'. Quality Time. Retrieved on 2009-01-18.
  8. ^ "Tags: dangelo" (JPG). I30.tinypic.com. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  9. ^ Harris, Chris (2005-09-27). "D'Angelo Says He's 'Fine' After Car Accident – Music, Celebrity, Artist News". MTV. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  10. ^ "Body & Soul". Spin. 2008-08. Retrieved 16 December 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ "D'Angelo Plots Prince Collab, Spring Tour". Billboard.com. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  12. ^ "SoulMusic.com". SoulMusic.com. 2008-11-05. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  13. ^ "Russell Elevado homepage". Russelevado.com. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  14. ^ "?uestlove Talks Michele Bachmann Fiasco, New D'Angelo Album | News". Pitchfork.com. 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2012-02-25. 
  15. ^ Ramirez, Erika (July 13, 2012). "D'Angelo Returns to Live Gigs - The Joice". Billboard (Prometheus Global Media). Retrieved 2012-07-16. 
  16. ^ "OKP News: D'Angelo Europe Dates Confirmed - Okayplayer Okayplayer". Okayplayer. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  17. ^ Rosie Swash. "D'Angelo – review". the Guardian. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  18. ^ "D'Angelo 2012 European Tour Dates Announced - Includes London Concert". Whenthebeatdrops.com. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  19. ^ "?uestlove Talks Michele Bachmann Fiasco, New D'Angelo Album". Pitchfork. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  20. ^ "D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’ Was Released in Response to Protests". The New York Times. December 17, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 
  21. ^ "KWL Management - A Kevin Liles Co.". Kwlmanagement.com. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  22. ^ "D'Angelo Returns With New Track "Sugah Daddy" | News". Pitchfork. 2014-12-14. Retrieved 2014-12-14. 
  23. ^ Trevor Smith. "D'Angelo Announces". HotNewHipHop. Retrieved 15 December 2014. 
  24. ^ http://pitchfork.com/thepitch/613-dangelos-black-messiah-is-1-in-our-hearts-but-not-on-the-charts-what-gives/
  25. ^ http://www.webcitation.org/6VUCPchxq
  26. ^ Robertson, Iyana (December 24, 2014). "Nicki Minaj's 'The Pinkprint' And D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah' Debut In Billboard 200's Top 10". Vibe (New York). Retrieved December 29, 2014. 
  27. ^ http://www.hiphopdx.com/index/news/id.31946/title.hip-hop-album-sales-nicki-minaj-j-cole-fabolous
  28. ^ Jones, Alan. "Official Charts Analysis: X Factor's Ben Haenow lands the Christmas No.1". Music Week. Retrieved December 22, 2014. 
  29. ^ http://www.allaccess.com/urban/future-releases
  30. ^ Kellman, Andy. "Black Messiah - D'Angelo". AllMusic. Retrieved December 20, 2014. 
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ a b c Christgau, Robert (January 2, 2015). "Beyoncé / D’Angelo". Medium. Retrieved January 3, 2015. 
  33. ^ a b Gill, Andy (2015). "D’Angelo And The Vanguard, Black Messiah, album review: A timely second coming". The Independent (January 9) (London). Retrieved January 26, 2015. 
  34. ^ Roberts, Randall (2014). "Review: D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah' draws on history, sublime grooves". Los Angeles Times (December 16). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  35. ^ a b Batey, Angus (2014). "D'Angelo And The Vanguard - 'Black Messiah'". NME (London) (December 16). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  36. ^ Jenkins, Craig (December 19, 2014). "D'Angelo / The Vanguard: Black Messiah". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  37. ^ 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. 
  38. ^ a b Mac, Sam C. (December 17, 2014). "D'Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah". Slant Magazine. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  39. ^ Martins, Chris (2014). "D'Angelo, 'Black Messiah' Review". Spin (New York) (December 17). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  40. ^ "Reviews for Black Messiah by D'Angelo". Metacritic. Retrieved January 6, 2015. 
  41. ^ Kot, Greg (2014). "D'Angelo is back: The 'Black Messiah' review". Chicago Tribune (December 17). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  42. ^ Pareles, Jon (2014). "Review: D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’". The New York Times (December 16). p. C1. Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  43. ^ Lester, Paul (2014). "D'Angelo – Black Messiah first-listen review: 'Investing vintage soul with a fresh lustre'". The Guardian (December 15) (London). Retrieved December 24, 2014. 
  44. ^ Elan, Priya (2014). "D'Angelo And The Vanguard – Black Messiah". Mojo (London) (December 16). Retrieved December 19, 2014. 
  45. ^ Hodgkinson, Will (2014). "Black: Messiah D’Angelo and the Vanguard". The Times (December 27) (London). Retrieved December 29, 2014.  (subscription required)
  46. ^ Lockett, Dee (2015). "Pazz and Jop 2014: Music critics name D'angelo's Black Messiah the best album of the year in the Village Voice's annual poll". Slate (January 13). Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  47. ^ Richards, Chris (December 23, 2014). "The Top 50 Albums of 2014". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 21, 2015. 
  48. ^ Sheffield, Rob (December 24, 2014). "Rob Sheffield's Top 20 Albums of 2014". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 21, 2015. 
  49. ^ Christgau, Robert (March 10, 2015). "Excuses, Excuses: The 2014 Dean’s List". The Barnes & Noble Review. Retrieved April 21, 2015. 
  50. ^ D'Angelo And The Vanguard - Black Messiah (LP liner notes). RCA Records. 88873-05655-1
  51. ^ "D'Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah". Australiancharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved December 20, 2014.
  52. ^ "D'Angelo Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Canadian Albums Chart for D'Angelo. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
  53. ^ "D'Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah". Danishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  54. ^ "D'Angelo and the Vanguard: Black Messiah" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
  55. ^ "D'Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah" (in Dutch). Dutchcharts.nl. Hung Medien. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  56. ^ "D'Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah". Charts.org.nz. Hung Medien. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  57. ^ "D'Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah". Swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved December 29, 2014.
  58. ^ "D'Angelo & The Vanguard | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  59. ^ "{{{date}}} Top 40 R&B Albums Archive . Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  60. ^ "D'Angelo Album & Song Chart History" Billboard 200 for D'Angelo. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
  61. ^ "D'Angelo Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Top Tastemaker Albums for D'Angelo. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
  62. ^ "D'Angelo Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums for D'Angelo. Retrieved December 25, 2014.

External links[edit]