CD: Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)

(Universal Motown)

This is something special. Erykah Badu's fourth studio album is as ambitious and insane as its title implies: part state-of-the-nation opus, part eye-opening trawl through the unexplored depths of Badu's brain. She sketches her messages in startling lyrics that veer from oblique poetry to direct, full-force observational commentary, and transmits them in spectacular soul jams patched together with sampled chants and radio static. Girl-group harmonies and ghostly backing vocals jostle for space amid sinuous, late-night melodies (The Healer), swinging doo-wop (The Cell) and an aching seven-minute elegy for the late J Dilla (Telephone); it's as if the voices in Badu's head are squabbling to be let out. Throughout, Badu herself is serene and strong, picking a steady path through the turbulence as if guiding her people. Each listen to New Amerykah brings fresh rewards: it demands to be explored.


Alex Macpherson

The GuardianTramp

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