New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)
|New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)|
|Studio album by Erykah Badu|
|Released||March 30, 2010|
Electric Lady Studios
(New York, New York)
|Producer||Erykah Badu (exec.), Mike "Chav" Chavarria (exec.), J Dilla, Questlove, James Poyser, RC Williams, Jahborn, Madlib, 9th Wonder, Sa-Ra, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Karriem Riggins, Ta'Raach|
|Erykah Badu chronology|
|Singles from New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)|
New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) is the fifth studio album by American recording artist Erykah Badu, first released on March 30, 2010, through Universal Motown. It follows her 2003 album Worldwide Underground and a hiatus from recording music. Communicating with several hip hop producers over the Internet, Badu conceived seventy five songs set to be split over three albums with New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (2008) being the first. The writing of the songs, led to the album's primary recording sessions at Electric Lady Studios in New York City.
Contrasting its socially themed and complex predecessor, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (2008), New Amerykah Part Two contains a prominently groove-based, analog sound that takes influence from Neo soul, funk, R&B and soul. The album incorporates sampling and live instrumentation, while its more personal lyrics focus on themes of romance and relationships. Written mainly by Badu, the production for the album was handled by several of Badu's previous collaborators, including J Dilla, Questlove, James Poyser, Madlib, 9th Wonder, Sa-Ra, Georgia Anne Muldrow, and Karriem Riggins.
Upon its release, New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) received rave reviews from music critics, who commended its soulful sound and loose structure, and viewed it as more accessible than that of its predecessor. The album was ranked as one of the best album of 2010 and the decade by several publications. The album achieved moderate success, debuting at number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 110,000 copies in its first week and produced three singles, "Window Seat", "Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY)", and "Gone Baby, Don't Be Long".
Dealing with writer's block and conflicted about her mainstream success, Erykah Badu embarked on her Frustrated Artist Tour in 2003. Her increasing popularity brought upon some backlash towards her public image and expectations of her as "queen of neo soul", an honorific nickname that she found limiting. Her third studio album, Worldwide Underground (2003), was released to mostly positive reviews and was certified gold, although it was underpromoted and sold less than her previous albums. Badu herself was not satisfied with the album and felt she had nothing substantial to express with her music at the time. She took time off from her recording career to deal with her creative block and focus on caring for her children, although she continued to tour in the period between albums.
Writing and recording
In 2004, she received her first computer as a Christmas gift from drummer and producer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, and began communicating with and receiving music from him and other producers such as Q-Tip and J Dilla. Beginning in 2005, Badu worked from her home in Dallas and used the software application GarageBand as a digital audio workstation, which she was introduced to by her son, Seven. He taught her how to use her laptop as a mini recording studio, and she used it to construct various backing tracks for songs. Using GarageBand, she recorded demos of her vocals by singing into the computer's microphone.
She composed more than 75 songs within the year and intended on splitting them among her planned series of New Amerykah albums. She said of her productivity with her laptop, "I could be here, in my own space, with headphones on, and the kids could be doing what they doing, and I’m cooking dinner still, I’m making juices still, and it’s so easy just to sing. You got an idea — boom! Idea, boom!" Badu's iChat contacts, including hip hop producers Questlove, Madlib, 9th Wonder, and J Dilla, instant messaged her to get back into the studio and sent her tracks. Such exchanges inspired a creative spark for Badu, which she explained in an interview for the Dallas Observer, "I started to accept that maybe it's OK for me to put out music, and it doesn't have to be something dynamic or world-changing. But just as I was accepting that, here comes this burst of light and energy and creativity. And that's the process, I guess, of life—the detachment and the release of something gives you even more room to grow or be creative."
Recording during 2006 to 2009, a portion of the album was recorded at New York City's Electric Lady Studios. She told Rolling Stone that she recorded her vocals for the song "Window Seat" in her shower, stating "I wanted to sound like I was in a tunnel. I got my laptop and closed the door." In an interview for Billboard, Badu explained that "we used a lot of analog instruments—harps, strings, drums, piano, and even a Theremin—to give the album that sonic feel. There's a strong undercurrent of bottom, a rumbling to these songs that feels good to me. It feels like a hug."
In contrast to its predecessor New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (2008), which was digitally produced and political in tone, New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) incorporates sampling and live instrumentation, while its more personal lyrics focus on themes of romance and relationships. "Return of the Ankh" was seen as a departure from the experimental work of New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) and a return to the musical style of Badu's earlier catalogue, particularly the jazz elements of Badu's debut, Baduizm (1997). The album's style and production is characterized as being down-tempo, built around soul and jazz. Badu has described its sound as "very analog". "Window Seat" was compared to the Badu's early work particularly "On & On" and "Otherside of the Game" from her debut album, "Window Seat" contains stomp-and-clap breakdowns built under halting lyrics.
According to Badu, the album's closing track, "Out My Mind, Just in Time", is a three-movement song: "The first movement is called 'Recovering Undercover Over-lover.' It actually sums up the whole album, because I'm talking about love and emotion – 'I need you to do this,' 'I want you to do this,' 'You make me feel like this,' 'Why don't you feel like this?' It's typical of how you feel in relationships. The second movement is called ... 'Easier Said Than Done,' and it's about how hard it is to change after you've been in a relationship for so long. And then the third movement is called 'But Not This Time,' because even though I've done things a certain way for so long, I won't do that this time". Andy Kellman of AllMusic described the song as being innocently as a piano ballad, before changing into a "psychedelic, slow-motion soul-jazz" song that sees Badu becoming "increasingly fragmentary and tripped-out" before being "renewed."
The internet-only promotional single "Jump Up in the Air (Stay There)", featuring Lil Wayne and Bilal, was released on Badu's official website in January 2010. RC Williams, Badu's musical director, said that a music video for the track was shot in Dallas. A censored "clean" version of the video was released on February 12, 2010 on Badu's official website. It has been made available as a free, legal download by Giant Step, the marketing and promotion company for the album.
The album's first official single, "Window Seat", was released by Badu through a downloadable link on her Twitter page. The song peaked at number 16 on Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The video for "Window Seat" was directed by Coodie Rock and premiered on Erykah's official site on March 27, 2010 at 3:33 AM EDT. In the video, Badu is seen walking the streets of Dallas near Dealey Plaza, slowly stripping to the nude, before being shot by an unseen assassin.
The album's second single, "Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY)", was released March 24, 2010 by Badu as a free download online. It spent three weeks on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, peaking at number 87. On Wednesday, February 9, 2011, vimeo.com released a new video for "Gone Baby, Don't Be Long" directed by Flying Lotus. The video was tweeted by Badu herself and friend and associated music act Questlove.
Release and promotion
The album was released March 30, 2010 on Universal Motown in the United States, and two weeks later in Japan on April 14, 2010. New Amerykah Part Two's cover art, titled "Out My Mind Just in Time", shares the name of the album's closing track and was designed by visual artist Emek, who had also designed the artwork for New Amerykah Part One. He explained on his website that he used song lyrics from the album as inspiration. In an interview with Billboard, she explained the album's title, stating:
I called it 'Part II: The Return of the Ankh' because this album is the sister of the left side of my brain – it is the right side.' Part I was the left side of my thoughts – it was more socially political and my thought process was more analytical. This time there wasn't anything to be concerned with – the album is more emotional and flowy and talks about feelings. It reminds of the days of 'Baduizm' – this is just about beats and rhymes in a cipher.— Erykah Badu
In promotion of the album, Erykah Badu hosted a series of listening sessions for press and VIPs at Chung King Studios in New York City on December 9 and December 10, 2009. During March 2010, Badu promoted the album through television performances on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Wendy Williams Show, Chelsea Lately, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and Good Day New York. She also appeared on the April issue cover of EQ magazine and was featured in the April issues of Nylon and Playboy, while she is also scheduled to appear in upcoming issues of several publications, including Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Time Out New York, Spin, Vibe, Paste, and People, among many other publications. Badu performed at a surprise midnight show on March 31, 2010 at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.
The album's international supporting tour, "Out My Mind, Just in Time Tour", began its North American-leg on May 28, 2010, starting at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. and ended June 24, 2010 at the Pearl Concert Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada. Its European-leg began July 9, 2010 at Sweden's Hultsfred Festival and ended July 24 at Brixton Academy in London, England. Badu was supported on the tour by N.E.R.D., Bilal, Janelle Monáe and The Roots-drummer Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson. She also performed at the Lollapalooza festival and Lilith Fair during the 2010 summer, along with special guest appearances at Maxwell's concerts at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia on June 11 and at Madison Square Garden in New York City on June 26, 2010.
The album debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, selling 110,000 copies in its first week. It also entered at number two on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. In its second week, the album fell to number nine on the Billboard 200, selling an additional 30,000 copies. The album fell to number 20 and sold 19,000 copies in its third week. In the United Kingdom, New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) debuted at number 56 on the UK Albums Chart and at number nine on the R&B Albums Chart. In Canada, the album debuted at number 36 on the Top 100 and at number five on the R&B Top 50 chart. New Amerykah Part Two achieved moderate chart success in international markets, peaking within the top-50 in several countries, including Norway, Poland, Switzerland, Sweden, and Denmark.
|The A.V. Club||A–|
|Los Angeles Times|||
New Amerykah Part Two received widespread acclaim from critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream publications, the album received an average score of 83, based on 25 reviews. Most critics found its loose, soulful music inventive and more accessible than its predecessor. AllMusic editor Andy Kellman said "the album is so rich with sample-reliant songs that it sometimes resembles a glorified mixtape". The A.V. Club's Michaelangelo Matos found the record "smoother than anything since her 1997 debut, Baduizm". Eric Henderson from Slant Magazine praised the record's "freeform" style and compared Badu's songwriting approach to that of Marvin Gaye, who "would usually feel out his melodies first and then come up with lyrics to fit into those lines. The result for both Gaye and Badu is R&B impressionism". Pitchfork Media's Mike Powell called the album "a coherent expression of a big, scattered personality" and praised Badu's expressive performance, writing that "her ability to toe the line between sounding effortless and sounding tossed-off is remarkable". In The Guardian, Alexis Petridis argued that repeated listens revealed a number of gratifying eccentric musical and lyrical details.
Some critics, however, found Badu's songwriting overly vague and deemed New Amerykah Part Two less adventurous than its predecessor. Kellman said it was "more personal than planetary, less challenging sonically and lyrically". In The New York Times, Jon Pareles felt the music's "atmosphere easily upstages the words", while Rolling Stone magazine's Jody Rosen found its "hazy texture" and songwriting sketchy. Kitty Empire from The Observer wrote that it "turns its skewed sights on love in both soppy and calculating fashion". Robert Christgau gave it an "honorable mention" in his consumer guide for MSN Music, citing "Turn Me Away (Get Munny)" and "Gone Baby, Don't Be Long" as highlights and writing "love may be a groove, but that doesn't make a groove a love song".
At the end of 2010, New Amerykah Part Two was named one of the year's best albums in a number of critics' lists, including Pitchfork Media, who ranked it 18th, and later named it one of "The 100 Best Albums of the Decade So Far" in August 2014. In the annual Pazz & Jop critics poll, it was voted 23th best.
|1.||"20 Feet Tall"||Erykah Badu, Patrick Douthit, Douglas Wimbish||Badu, 9th Wonder, James Poyser||3:25|
|2.||"Window Seat"||Badu, Poyser||Badu, Poyser||4:50|
|3.||"Agitation"||Badu, Shafiq Husayn, David Sancious||Badu, Husayn||1:33|
|4.||"Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY)"||Badu, Roy Ayers, Sylvia Striplin, James Bedford, Jr.||Badu||5:26|
|5.||"Gone Baby, Don't Be Long"||Badu, Husayn, Terrell "Ta'Raach" McMathis, Paul McCartney||Ta'Raach, Badu||4:39|
|6.||"Umm Hmm"||Badu, Otis Jackson, Jr., Leon "Ndugu" Chancler||Madlib, Badu||3:45|
|7.||"Love"||Badu, James Yancey, Ira Raibon||J Dilla, Badu, Mike Chav||6:02|
|8.||"You Loving Me (Session)"||Badu, Waldo Benzworth, Jonathan Cantero, R.C. Williams||Badu||1:04|
|9.||"Fall in Love (Your Funeral)"||Badu, Karriem Riggins, Garry Glenn, Eddie Kendricks||Riggins||6:06|
|10.||"Incense" (featuring Kirsten Agnesta)||Badu, Jackson, Jr.||Madlib||3:27|
|11.||"Out My Mind, Just in Time"||Badu, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Poyser||Badu, Muldrow||10:21|
|iTunes bonus track|
|12.||"Jump Up in the Air (Stay There)" (featuring Lil Wayne and Bilal)||Badu, Dwayne Carter, Jr., Bilal Oliver||Badu, R.C. Williams, Jahborn||4:25|
Credits for New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) adapted from liner notes.
|New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)||
Recording engineers: Mike "Chav" Chavaria (tracks 3–6, 9–11), Chris Bell (2, 5, 8), Tom Soares (2), Shafiq Husayn (3), Brian Vibberts/Buck Snow (band on 4), Erykah Badu (7)
|1||"20 Feet Tall"||
Produced by Erykah Badu, 9th Wonder (original track), James Poyser ("acoustic interpolation")
Produced by Erykah Badu and James Poyser
|4||"Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY)"||
Produced by Erykah Badu
|5||"Gone Baby, Don't Be Long"|
Produced by Madlib and Erykah Badu
Produced by J Dilla, Erykah Badu and Mike Chavaria
|8||"You Loving Me (Session)"||
Produced by Erykah Badu
|9||"Fall in Love (Your Funeral)"||
Produced by Karriem Riggins
Produced by Madlib
|11||"Out My Mind, Just in Time"|
|*||"Jump Up in the Air (Stay There)"|
|Austrian Albums Chart||36|
|Canadian Albums Chart||36|
|Dutch Albums Chart||66|
|Danish Albums Chart||35|
|European Albums Chart||61|
|French Albums Chart||77|
|Japanese Albums Chart||38|
|Norwegian Albums Chart||14|
|Polish Albums Chart||15|
|Swedish Albums Chart||21|
|Swiss Albums Chart||18|
|UK Albums Chart||56|
|UK R&B Chart||9|
|US Billboard 200||4|
|US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Albums||2|
|US Billboard 200||119|
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