Many feared the constant postponements of D’Angelo’s works during this period would eventually lead to his complete withdrawal from the music industry.
These assumptions as well as the doubt that clouded D’Angelo’s musical abilities were shattered on Dec. 15 when his third album, Black Messiah, was released to the public. Despite the massive changes in both the music scene as well as in his personal life, D’Angelo’s overwhelmingly complex pieces prove to encompass the confusing and oftentimes convoluted portrayals of love, politics and spirituality in today’s society.
Plagued by his most recognized work, “Untitled (How Does it Feel?),” D’Angelo withdrew from the public eye in 2000. This song, which was included in his highly anticipated second album, Voodoo, changed public view of D’Angelo.
The music video, which showcased a nude D’Angelo shot from the waist-up, not only branded the video as provocative and seductive, but also labeled D’Angelo as a sex symbol. This newly-received title resulted in a strong focus on D’Angelo’s appearance. This development, as well as other personal factors, pushed D’Angelo to pause his performances and releases. More than a decade later, Black Messiah has highlighted a different kind of sexy. Along with the darker messages of oppression and disorder, the dense and lingering arrangements exude a sensual overtone that delicately ties the entire album together.
The spontaneity in rhythm as well as the mixture of old and new R&B in Black Messiah calls for a visceral reaction from the audience. Ears perk up and lips curl as the moments between familiarity and the unknown are washed up against the defenseless listener.
This is further complicated by the different styles of music D’Angelo incorporates into each song. Black Messiah is an intense blend of R&B, funk, rock, soul and even classical music. It is able to encompass the different elements that make each of these genres so special to the respective fan bases, all the while creating a harmonious blend of sound.
The release date of Black Messiah is an important factor in the purpose and framework of the album. D’Angelo decided on an earlier release date than what had been planned after the controversial decisions of the Eric Garner and Ferguson cases were announced. Many of the songs, especially “The Charade,” “1000 Deaths” and “Till it’s Done,” communicate powerful and obvious statements on the destructive effects of racism in American society.
However, it is important to note that, although many themes in this album can be used to represent solidarity in these recent cases, the issues that D’Angelo brings up are those embedded in a long history of tragic incidents.
The combination of a long list of factors make Black Messiah an addictive, endlessly interesting and culturally significant piece of art. This album is a rare and necessary musical interpretation of the modern issues of discrimination in America.
From the large-scale message to the small note changes in each song, Black Messiah triggers an unfiltered and unknown human reaction in all of us. D’Angelo has come out of his break and has proven his uncompromising artistry and perpetually original talents through the creation of Black Messiah.