Four Good Reasons D'Angelo's Black Messiah Was 2014's Album of the Year
Every year since 1971, with Pazz and Jop, our sister paper the Village Voice has polled music nerds worldwide to determine which were the best albums released the year prior. In 2014, most of us came together in agreement that D'Angelo's Black Messiah -- which just snuck in before the New Year, on December 15, to be exact -- was the finest sonic creation of those 365 days.
This January 31, D'Angelo is making his first public appearance since the album dropped. He'll be taking the Saturday Night Live stage with host J.K. Simmons.
I want to state that I also chose this album as the best of 2014. I put Black Messiah up there with Ty Segall's Manipulator, because honestly, I listen to one or the other very frequently and with great joy.
And so, I want to share with you a few of of the many reasons why D'Angelo deservedly scored this annual accolade.
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4. Black Messiah is sexy
Though plenty of other musicians have unique sounds and even unique voices, D'Angelo's got those pipes that make panties drop.
Not sure if you got Voodoo on CD when it came out (we'll assume you did). It's safe to bet that album got more people pregnant than Sade's Lover's Rock, which also came out in 2000. What can we say? The millennium was a sexy time. Y2K got us all fired up, scared of death, and ready for some spiritual, sensual R&B.
See also: Pazz + Jop: The Top 50 Albums of 2014
3. Black Messiah is deep
This album though, isn't about bumping and grinding, it's largely about politics. It just sounds sexy as hell, but all that attests to is D'Angelo's complexity.
Above is D'Angelo's explanation of the Black Messiah title from the liner notes. Songs like "1000 Deaths" and "The Charade" are deep as hell. He not only explores larger issues like systemic injustice with great poetic strength, but also personal stuff, like in "Back To The Future" where he sings the line: "So if you're wondering about the shape I'm in/I hope it ain't my abdomen that you're referring to."
The singer even pushed the release up from 2015 because of the Ferguson and Eric Garner cases. The New York Times wrote on the subject: "'The one way I do speak out is through music,' D'Angelo told his tour manager, Alan Leeds. 'I want to speak out.'"
And so he did.
2. Black Messiah has soul
Black Messiah marks a turn in popular music, or at least we hope so. It's a work of real quality, thought, and intention.
In 2011, Questlove told Pitchfork that it was the "black version of [The Beach Boys'] Smile." Now, we can't say that for certain, but it's true that both offer an eclectic mix of ideas and sounds that come together beautifully. Hopefully, any offspring we all have will celebrate both equally and frequently.
As far as authenticity, D'Angelo stated that: "No digital 'plug-ins' of any kind were used in this recording. All of the recording, processing, effects and mixing was done in the analog domain using tape and mostly vintage equipment." That's what we call soul.
1. Because we missed D'Angelo.
A few years ago, D'angelo had some run-ins with the law and issues with alcoholism, then he gained a few pounds. Yes, that man -- whose body starred in the dreams of plenty of horny folks worldwide for more than a decade after the "Untitled (How Does It Feel)" best-video-of-all-time came out on MTV -- changed. But change is good. He's not just man-meat. We knew that then and we're aware of it even more now that he's just a human man with a human man body and what we really missed was his superhuman ability to craft an unforgettable musical creation.
We're very glad he's back on top.
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