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"Day one has exceeded our expectations, the buzz is louder, and people seem to like this music even more than we’d hoped.”
—- RCA CEO
Peter Edge

MESSIAH: WORTH THE WAIT

Thoughts on D'Angelo's Surprise Album, His First Since 2000
By Michelle Santosuosso

Incredibly rare is the artist whose sonic fingerprint is as instantly identifiable as their vocal one. But this is so absolutely true of  D’Angelo, a real troubadour whose creativity carved out a new soulful identity so insanely progressive for its time, the music still sounds cutting-edge nearly 20 years later—and also helped forge an entirely new path in R&B that was coined “Neo-Soul.” Timelessness is true genius. 

But after two incredible albums, the artist suddenly disappeared from the scene in 2000, resurfacing only occasionally via collaborations with Common, Q-Tip, and Questlove or the occasional live performance.

Suddenly—following a trend established by Beyoncé last year—a new album was set up, released and delivered from out of the blue over the weekend, with a 15-second video tease going up on YouTube Friday, new song “Really Love” released to radio on Saturday, and a small listening party in NYC Sunday with the complete RCA album Black Messiah revealed to the world via iTunes and Spotify by midnight 12/15;  it’s currently sitting at #1 on the iTunes album chart.

“I think the idea of just making a whole album available is kind of a unique thing these days,” said RCA CEO Peter Edge. “When you’ve got something as special as this, just put the album out and know it's a unique moment where people actually want the whole album experience. Day one has exceeded our expectations, the buzz is louder, and people seem to like this music even more than we’d hoped.”

Loaded with contributions from Questlove, who Edge describes as “a key collaborator, one of the guiding spirits,” and the band D’Angelo assembled, The VanguardPino Palladino, drummer James Gadson, plus songwriting collaborator Kendra Foster of Parliament Funkadelic and Q-Tip—assist in delivering a masterful work about the most serious social issues of right now.  

“D’Angelo is really at the center of this project, the mastermind of everything,” explains Edge.

 "It’s a passion project, and it’s everything," Questlove told the audience at the album preview party. "I don’t really want to give a hyperbolic or grandiose statement, but it’s everything. It’s beautiful; it’s ugly; it’s truth; it’s lies. It’s everything."

D’Angelo writes on the liner notes of the album, “It’s about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. It’s not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them.”

Black Messiah is being received by critics and fans alike as overwhelmingly worth the 14-year wait.  “Really Love,” along with “Another Life,” and “Betray My Heart,” are all standouts, as is “Sugah Daddy,” infused with a crazy good bassline you’ll instantly hum.  The song “1000 Deaths” channels a rough, chaotic production that matches the emotional upheaval of its provocative lyrics, and “The Charade” layers uplifting melody while delivering a knockout punch lyrically: “All we wanted was a chance to talk/’stead we’ve only got outlined in chalk.” This is critical thinking set to future-funk, a soul-sonic force to be reckoned with. Just as every single one of D’Angelo’s prodigal albums have been.

In addition to the social issues it raises, this record may ultimately spur another important  conversation, one about the pressure artists are put under to deliver vast amounts of material quickly in this singles-driven music economy.  

Edge, already well known as an extraordinary music person, gave D’Angelo the time and space he needed to create for YEARS, knowing full well it was the final product that mattered most here, not fulfilling a particular release-schedule obligation. Such patience from a music exec is rare in these pressure-filled times, but it’s that very finesse and instinct that has given us one of the best records—in any genre—of the year.

“I just think he’s really unique; there’s really nobody doing music just like him,” muses Edge. “I felt like I needed to support that. His talent is one of a kind. But yes, it’s been a long road.”

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