Today is one of those days when I’m apparently on the other side of the discussion from not only my son, but most of the musical industry, it appears. We start the 21st century with “Voodoo” by New York R&B artist D’Angelo, loved by many, and it is the #28 rated album on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. I think it boils down to the fact that I’m just not a huge fan of slow-jam, overwrought R&B, and there is a lot of it on this album. I know he is a very talented singer, and his collaboration with many is well-documented, but with the exception of a limited number of tracks, this just isn’t my cup of tea.
Most people know this album for its lead single and provocative video for the song “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”, where an incredibly fit D’Angelo sings to us on a revolving, isolated soundstage, seemingly without a stitch of clothing on. I have heard he had some regrets for that video format, as he felt it ultimately distracted the audience from the core of the message, which is his music, but from where I sit, he has nothing to regret. The guy looked amazing and it was an emotionally exposed (physically as well) performance. My issue is the song, which is similar to most of the content on this record. It is slow, meandering, and while full of soulful emotion, just relies on an ever-building tempo of riffing and vocal histrionics that just doesn’t do it for me. The other single from the album, “Send It On”, is pretty much in the same category, as are most of the tracks here.
With a talent of his acclaim, it isn’t surprising that I found three takeaway tunes. My favorite is definitely the second song, “Devil’s Pie”. It has a funkier bass line and reminds me of some of my favorite low-key funk music from past and present. I love both the main verse and the chorus; it is absolutely the highlight of this record for me. “Left and Right” also opens with a funky descending guitar riff and features the hip-hop double-team of Method Man and Redman. “Spanish Joint” has more of a jazz feel, and it is a very hypnotic blend of guitar and bass that sets the tone of this exotic track. The vocals are very Wonder-esque, and with some well-timed horns, this one is an extremely well-performed song.
This album won’t ever make my Top 28, but like almost always, I appreciate the art and the talent, and am glad I scratched beneath the surface to find songs I connected with more than the historically obvious singles.