Just when you’ve lost faith in the music industry to do the right thing, along comes Erykah Badu with another deliciously strange album.
Since her debut 13 years ago, Badu has walked a path unlike any other, an intensely personal mix of pulsating midtempo grooves and seductive/aggressive lyrics. Her latest CD, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh, continues her eclectic tradition, as she uses one of music’s most recognizable voices to create a moody, belligerent, yet vulnerable tapestry.
Badu wrote and produced most of the songs, and is executive producer of the album, so the vision is firmly in her control. That’s no surprise coming from a woman who gets paid under the banner of “Divine Pimp Publishing.”
What you get is a woman who needs yet fears love, a “recovering undercover over-lover” unafraid to reveal her soft spots, as she does on the startling, guerilla-style video for “Window Seat.”
She’s also not afraid to bring back an old beat or a classic sample and put her stamp on it — “Turn Me Away (get MuNNY)” reworks the infamous Junior M.A.F.I.A. tune from a woman’s point of view, and “Fall In Love (your funeral)” relies on the popular “Intimate Friends” lick used by Alicia Keys’ “Unbreakable,” among others.
But Badu’s clever, multilayered reinventions make everything sound fresh, like on “Fall In Love,” when she channels Notorious B.I.G. again and warns, “It’s gone be/Some slow sangin’ and flower bringing/If my burglar alarm starts ringing/You don't wanna fall in love with me.”
It’s too late for the fans, though. They’ve been head over heels for a while now, and the new New Amerykah is another shot straight to the heart.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK
“Umm Hmm” simmers with the passion of a humid summer night, and Badu tiptoes beautifully through “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long.”