Black Messiah

The first sound on Black Messiah is a sirenlike wail, and the first three songs are dominated by martial stomping, blurry Maggot Brain choirs, screaming guitars, and a sermon about Jesus’ blackness. We agree, right, that there’s no way D’Angelo wrote “All we wanted was a chance to talk/’Stead we only got outlined in chalk” before Ferguson set off a summer of unrest that is still growing at the Winter Solstice?

How did an album that was a decade late, vaporware, really, have to be rushed to completion because its moment had so obviously arrived? What kind of, sorry, voodoo brought D’Angelo’s Joseph Cornell perfectionism and personal problems into confluence with Hands Up, Don’t Shoot/I Can’t Breathe?

I guess the answer is a mix of perfectionism, frantic rewrites and overdubs, and The Black Experience, because the worst part of this crisis is that none of it is new except perhaps white people learning about it through social media.

This is so overwhelming that some of the album’s quiet moments haven’t yet sunk in for me. But Black Messiah fits with his other work so well that you can’t tell what was conceived in 2004 and what’s from 2014. He’s still fun and enigmatic and sexy and inward. We’re as troubled as ever, desperate for justice and in need of connection to each other to feel alive even though those bonds make us more vulnerable to the turmoil within and without.

Somehow, we’re all living in a moment he’s just summed up.

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