Review Summary: New Amerykah Part Two is an album that deals in organic funk and a refreshing ebb and flow, combining many aspects of Erykah Dabu's stellar career.
Very few artists nowadays strike as many chords as the soulful and sassy Erykah Dabu, and very few songs are as ethnically charged and honest as hers. Her soothing brand of organic funk began on Baduizm
, a debut which sold her as a narcissistic titan of soulful pop. The album's title alone could sum up the album: a release as exotic as it was self-centered. Badu's form of self-expression did cry out a selfish tune now and again (and again and again), but did it ever cry out boredom? No. Her signature brand of R&B tinged funk was melodic and sensual. However, Badu proved more than another soldier of the funk when she went under a few stylistic shifts in a relatively short span.
Departing from the jazzy and bass-heavy sound showcased on her debut, her next effort Mama's Gun
was a platinum-selling full-length album which showed Badu taking a backseat. She exchanged her prominent role in her music for a more moody feel which ebbed and drifted throughout this album, thus leading to the jam-oriented Worldwide Underground
. However, her most notable change was found in the first installment of the New Amerykah
... (yes another reference to herself) series. The change was ultimately difficult for the songwriter, as her music was political and morose. But, New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War
succeeded to blend an artsy sense of difficulty with an accessible mash of soul and pop. Basically, her fourth album was guaranteed critical acclaim, and unsurprisingly, the album refused to stray from this prediction. So it became a necessity for this Grammy-winning artist to exercise her penchant for creative hits on New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
if she were to keep her spot in the spotlight.
And god damn it she did.
New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
is a great step in a stellar career, but it's completely detached from the previous installment in Badu's New Amerykah
... series. Rather than being political, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
is emotionally-charged with tales of her not-so-perfect love life and its resulting spawn. In the tradition of disparity, this installment is a sort of throwback to her second and third works, just more involved. "Window Seat" provides a relaxed atmosphere for the listener to float away in. Badu's voice glides against a constant piano melody, and her choruses seem like just a slight crescendo rather than a full on climax. Here her eclecticism shines; she fuses gospel, soul, pop, R&B, and pop into one accessible nineties throwback. And though this track is perfectly structured and radio-friendly, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
features blips of insanity. Humorous additions like "Agitation" show Badu at her peak of introspect. Though they are instrusive minute-long bursts, they are distinctly hers. The acclaimed artist's mental state is completely expressed in these tracks and her organic style of funk is all the better for it. In that spirit, the most intrusive track is her most serious, "Out My Mind, Just In Time". Her drones here are near-excruciating, and her carefree nature is nowhere to be found. In fact, that spry nature gives life to so many of the tracks on her fifth album.
"Me" tells of her love for two of her children, both born of different men, and it's easy to see that Badu laughs about it as though her missteps are just cosmic jokes. She also laughs about her affairs with your
friends and a certain cardboard cut-out annoyance. This is why when examining New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
, it's obvious that the short and leisurely tracks are far superior to lagging tracks like "Strawberry Incense" or "Love". Her latest installment is like a diary, introspective and cohesive. Yet each date is securely its own. In the same way, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh
is an album where each song is different from its neighbors, but it still just works. Each piece of soulful transethnic music is detachable yet necessary, loveable yet agitating, and effortlessly engaging.