Goapele - Break of Dawn

Goapele
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Time takes on new meaning in the furious and frenetic world of entertainment, and a performer electing to take years away from the spotlight can risk losing her edge and her audience. The trend-driven nature of the beast causes many artists to adopt a 'can't stop, won't stop' mentality, so it's hard not to take notice of others confident enough to do the opposite, such as Goapele Mohlabane. In the nearly six years since her last solo project, Change It All, the singer, songwriter, musician and activist turned her focus from local to global, championing the Motherland's most challenging dilemmas by adding her talents to the ANSA (Artists for a New South Africa) organization and 'motherhood' to her jam-packed resume, crucial changes that have obviously emboldened the 34-year-old California native to plunge into more sensual material for her latest release, Break Of Dawn.

Time takes on new meaning in the furious and frenetic world of entertainment, and a performer electing to take years away from the spotlight can risk losing her edge and her audience. The trend-driven nature of the beast causes many artists to adopt a 'can't stop, won't stop' mentality, so it's hard not to take notice of others confident enough to do the opposite, such as Goapele Mohlabane. In the nearly six years since her last solo project, Change It All, the singer, songwriter, musician and activist turned her focus from local to global, championing the Motherland's most challenging dilemmas by adding her talents to the ANSA (Artists for a New South Africa) organization and 'motherhood' to her jam-packed resume, crucial changes that have obviously emboldened the 34-year-old California native to plunge into more sensual material for her latest release, Break Of Dawn.

Experiencing the CD is both soothing and surreal, kind of like moving from Norman Rockwell paintings and veering straight into the Salvador Dali wing. Producers like Bedrock, Mike Tiger, Dan Electric, Bobby Ozuna and Drumma Boy, to name a few, put aching, yet edgy, lilting touches on songs about the various twists and turmoils that the heart can take. “Pieces” is a wistful, gauzy cascade of a melody about desperate dejection and loneliness: “Then I fall into pieces, I’m here and you’ve left/I fall into pieces, I’m never seeing you again/separated like a puzzle, flying into space, so lost.”  “Tears On My Pillow,” its stark and stormy flipside, is a brooding, percussive glimpse into a broken heart and angry acceptance: “I saw you slip away, long before you gave reasons/couldn’t hold you down, if you wanted to go.”

Never one for conventionally-styled R&B, Goapele is still an affecting songstress, thanks to her sweet yet searing soprano that burrows into the lyrics and peels back layers of emotion with focus and ferocity. "Undertow," a prime example, floats in innocently enough, unfolding languidly as Goapele describes the immediate attraction of their initial encounter, but laments the toxicity of that bond: "How you were licking your lips, I could tell you were danger/that you were the type of boy that even love couldn't change / So I know I should leave, but I'm not ready to go / About to ride that wave, riding on that me on that wave / got me on that wave, caught up in your undertow..."

The richness of a broadened perspective is also what helps in conveying the intent and the emotions of the music in Dawn. Stretching the common woe of single motherhood into hymn territory is "Hush," a song meant to soothe the fatherless child, but laced with just enough frustration to purge her own anger clean during the process: "You know I love you, I'd move the mountains with my hands if I had to, do anything for you/Baby believe me, I hope you can see that, your Momma loves you." The urgency of now and seizing the moment shimmers to the surface of "Right Here," pairing a synthesized whisper of a track with notes that dip and soar with expectancy before flowing into the most straightforward number of the entire set, "Milk & Honey," featuring an artful---and bordeline orgasmic----placement of Auto Tune that tenderly implores her man to surrender to her capable wiles. 

Does Goapele stretch herself too thin at times? Certainly: "Money" has a worthwhile message, but is blatantly lifted chapter and verse from the Book of Prince without his bite or self-assurance, and the opening track, "Play," shape-shifts too much from one genre to another to maintain a lasting impact. However, Break of Dawn is a daring and delectable return, interlocking her life-long political and cultural savvy with a fully-realized vivaciousness that, just like a sunrise, is awe-inspiring and impossible to ignore. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 
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