During the dying days of 2014 a miracle happened – D’Angelo released an album. It has taken me two years to realise that this album is one of the most important records I have ever had the pleasure to listen to. Unlike many recent albums, Black Messiah has been in constant rotation and I still manage to find new things to love about it.
Black Messiah makes me euphorically happy almost every time I put it on, but it’s also a record that puts me in a depressing funk. You see, D’Angelo is one of the last of his kind. With Michael and Prince dead, D and Stevie are the only pure ones left. Can Anderson .Paak and Janelle Monae pick up mantle?
Pure. That is the difficult word I come to time and again when I think of Black Messiah. It is pure. It could have sounded modern, clean and compromised but it sounds like the logical evolution of a D’Angelo album. It sounds like the many innovators that have come before him, it sounds like an album that could have been released in the 70s, but it also sounds like the freshest RnB album of the past 20 years – shit, since Voodoo most likely.
I listen to 1000 Deaths, a song which bewildered me at first with its blisteringly angry bass lines and D’s trademark hard to decipher vocals and I just shake my head in astonishment. I think of the funk, lust and playfulness of Sugah Daddy which is followed by the sincerest of songs, Really Love, and I believe that D’Angelo is capable of anything. Then I listen to Another Life, a song which I believe to be perfect – from the instrumentation, the lyrics and the vocal performances of D’Angelo and his Vanguard crew. Perfect.
Music is now disposable and we are back to a singles driven market – so I get why Black Messiah was a commercial failure. But when people say an album is a classic the second they listen to the first track, I test that theory by judging it against Black Messiah – there is always one winner.
This is the album where I stopped thinking of D’Angelo as a Prince or Marvin Gaye disciple – he is his own man. D’Angelo is now a legend in his own right.