Album review: D’Angelo’s ‘Black Messiah’ a welcomed return

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

An early holiday gift came from Michael D’Angelo Archer in the form of Black Messiah, his new album whose midnight release came as a surprise to most of us who weren’t on Twitter.

Though it’s been over 14 years since we experienced Voodoo, his critically acclaimed sophomore record, (and almost 20 years since his masterful debut Brown Sugar), fans should rest assured that D’Angelo has picked up right where he left off, arguably even stronger than before. Backed by his band The Vanguard, Messiah is a cosmic journey of love, sex, and unapologetic Blackness that is conscious, soulful, and entertaining. Here’s a track-by-track review of the album.

Ain’t That Easy

D’Angelo opens the album in a manner that we know him for – with a funky melody, telling a fine young lady that it’s not easy to walk away from his love. The heavy guitar and haunting gospel-like vocals sound like a perfect marriage of Jimi Hendrix and Parliament Funkadelic — an awesome way to convince us that he “gots just what [we] need.”

1000 Deaths

How timely this track is in relation to the dawning of a new revolution, sparked by the events in Ferguson, MO. The track starts with a sermon describing Jesus, or the Messiah, as a black figure whose image has been appropriated by white folks for an oppressive agenda. As important as this track is, it’s hard to understand D’Angelo. The vocals on the track are heavy with reverb, making it difficult to receive this powerful message: It’s time for us to wake up and take action against oppression.

The Charade

One of the standout tracks on the album pays homage to the magnificent purple one, Prince! “All we wanted was a chance to talk/ ‘Stead we only got outlined in chalk.” This is another politically charged tune that holds nothing back and assails all attempts to silence our Blackness. If that doesn’t strike something in your inner core, then you may need shimmy down to Emerald City to ask The Wiz for a new heart.

Sugah Daddy

If this isn’t the get-you-a-glass-of-whiskey-and-up-out-yo-seat jam! Easily the best track on the album, bridging jazz and gospel with lyrics that will have you clutching your proverbial pearls and giving a sinister grin while remember a time when you were… you know what you were doing. The Vanguard does an excellent job bringing the church to the juke joint on this, and I just can’t even keep my back straight. (Note: This is on repeat while I write this. It’s too good!)

Really Love

In a current state of music when male R&B is oversaturated with tracks about getting the drawls or being mad about not getting’ the drawls, it’s quite refreshing and rejuvenating to hear a man sing honestly about love. He becomes quite vulnerable and shares tender moments about when his lady calls his name or even glances at him. Another standout.

Back To The Future (Part I & II)

It’s not a true soul album if there isn’t an “I want that old thang back” type of record, and the two-part Back to the Future is a double dose! Who can’t relate to that thought of wanting to rekindle a spark from love’s past (read: Make the same mistake over again)? So this will resonate with so many of us. Part II is a reprise that’s funkier than Part I. This album just keeps on getting better and better.

Till It’s Done (Tutu)

D’Angelo comes to us with a call to look at the social issues impacting everyone. He sings of the real concerns and issues facing people of color, asking us to keep that focus and those questions in mind until a change for the greater good is done. An instant classic.


D’Angelo holds tighter to his faith on “Prayer.” Not many lyrics, yet Mr. Archer sings a soul-stirring benediction of strength, fortitude and trust in a higher power. Pardon me while I petition my pastor to allow me to sing this during Devotion.

Betray My Heart

Another surefire hit that’s an ode to his Brown Sugar days, D’Angelo croons his love for the lady in his life. “I will never betray my heart” is the new way to say “I love you.”

The Door

Reminiscent of sitting on your granny’s porch while sipping sweet tea, but the picture ain’t that pretty — D’Angelo sings and claps that one shouldn’t take advantage of matters of the heart. As sad as the song may be, you can’t help but get your whistle on!

Another Life

If I had 10,000 tongues, it wouldn’t be enough to say how much of a perfect song this is. D’Angelo closes the cosmic soul journey that is Black Messiah with an honest and sweet how-can-I-get-to-know-you love letter. Trying to hit on your next ex? Take notes from this song!

If you are longing to hear something refreshing that reminds you of your first love, or if you want to jam around the house while cleaning on a Saturday morning, this is it. Black Messiah has been worth the wait – it’s bold, daring, sweet, Black and necessary. Let’s hope it doesn’t take another 14 years to hear something so stellar. Bravo, Mr. Archer.

Follow Xavier D’Leau on Twitter at @theXDExperience.