Reason Featured: #6 on The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop Poll for 2000, #4 Album for Rolling Stone’s Top Ten Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: Playa Play, Devil’s Pie, One Mo’gin, Untitled (How Does It Feel)
Their Grades: Rolling Stone (3/5), NME (9/10), Pitchfork (10/10), Robert Christgau (A-), Grammy for Best R&B Album
My Grade: 90%
Let’s talk about the ways D’Angelo’s Voodoo is like My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. Yes, I’m serious.
Rumor has it D’Angelo’s coming out with a new album this year. That’s something of an event considering his first two LPs were spaced out by five years and there’s been a fourteen year gap between Voodoo and this upcoming release. Both acts aren’t necessarily prolific and they take their sweet time baking up quality stuff, but the entrees they serve are the kind you can savor for months and months when they finally come out of the oven. His return will be to soul what My Bloody Valentine’s was to shoegaze. Like MBV, his name is synonymous with his genre and rightfully so. Voodoo is the kind of record which is so perfectly evocative of its genre that you can only really enjoy it when you’re in a “soul” mood, just like you can only really enjoy Loveless when you’re in a “shoegaze” mood. You can listen to “Devil’s Pie” just like you can listen to MBV’s “When You Sleep” as isolated tracks and get pumped up but both records are best made for chilled out, decompressed, all-your-attention-is-devoted-to-it listening. The same could be said of albums like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On or even The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. They’re great in all scenarios, but perfect in very specific ones.
But, obviously, there are far more ways in which Voodoo is unlike all these albums (especially Loveless, I admit it; come on, I have to try and set myself apart somehow). My bass prodigy friend, Jon, told me to listen to this many, many times and, after finally taking the plunge, it’s easy to see why. Here you’ll find a record which anchors itself around the some of the best basslines ever recorded. The instrumentation is mostly minimalist, as bare as his chest on the album’s cover (yuk yuk yuk), and the thing about minimalism is you have to make it all matter. D’Angelo does, as the accolades received by this record suggests. This is one of the least “busy” albums I’ve listened to, certainly one of the least “loud.” But it’s also one of the most confident. You have moments of upbeat tempo and packed-out production (case-in-point: the Method & Red guested track “Left and Right”) but, overall, this is one big chiller. He’s king of the slow jam, the ideal musician to play for a romantic evening in when all you want to care about is your lover and your stereo.
The shortest song on here is still almost five minutes long. If an entire record doesn’t have a a track under the three minute mark, you know it was made for introspective reflection, not just a fun time air drumming on your steering wheel and singing along. I’m a big proponent of the latter type of album (plenty of my favorites fall into that category) but to make a record of the former variety takes as much, if not more, finesse. If you need something more than a box of tricks to keep you entertained for a half hour, Voodoo’s spell is well worth being cast under.