Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) (2010)

Erykah Badu
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I found out about the video a couple of days after I agreed to review New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh).  By now, nearly all soul music fans are aware of Erykah Badu's video for "Window Seat," the first single from her latest album. Badu's artsiness got her in a world of trouble because she a) feigned her assassination in the same place where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy nearly 47 years ago (if you believe the government's version) and b) she did this at the end of a video in which she took off all of her clothes. The disrobing ultimately caused her to be charged with public indecency (well, that and reportedly shooting a music video without a permit.)

Badu, according to the Dallas police, knew that her anti-conformist statement would get her in trouble, get her arrested and that she would likely have to pay a fine. She also had to figure that the video would be good for some free publicity.

I found out about the video a couple of days after I agreed to review New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh).  By now, nearly all soul music fans are aware of Erykah Badu's video for "Window Seat," the first single from her latest album. Badu's artsiness got her in a world of trouble because she a) feigned her assassination in the same place where Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy nearly 47 years ago (if you believe the government's version) and b) she did this at the end of a video in which she took off all of her clothes. The disrobing ultimately caused her to be charged with public indecency (well, that and reportedly shooting a music video without a permit.)

Badu, according to the Dallas police, knew that her anti-conformist statement would get her in trouble, get her arrested and that she would likely have to pay a fine. She also had to figure that the video would be good for some free publicity. The Doug Banks Show and NPR covered the video and the accompanying controversy on the same day. So, if Badu is of the all publicity is good publicity school, then having Rudy Rush and Michele Norris talking about the video means Badu had the kind of run that Brendan Behan could appreciate.

Yes, the "Window Seat" video prompted more than its share of overheated, the sky is falling rhetoric. My personal favorite was the person on YouTube who asserted that the video was kind of thing modern artists needed to do to draw attention away from the fact that their music isn't very good.

For the sake of argument, let's assume that Badu intended "Window Seat" to be as much a publicity stunt as an artistic statement. So what. Artists in the rock era have never been shy about doing things that might garner a little free publicity. Besides, the contention that Badu - an artist who consistently manages to receive commercial success and critical accolades - needs to shift attention away from her music simply doesn't hold water.

New Amerykah Part II speaks eloquently for itself. This 12 track album is filled with songs that are at once atmospheric and soulful. The beats seem to hover ghost like and the lyrics carry that trademark Badu depth, meaning that heads nod simultaneously to the funky music and to the intelligent lyrics. "Turn Me Away (Get Munny)," New Amerykah's best song, is a funny and thought-provoking tune about the lengths people will go to make themselves available to people who have money. Like all good records, "Turn Me Away" works on two levels: the jauntily funky beat is skillfully juxtaposed against the song's unsettling message.

On "Window Seat," Badu addresses the push/pull of wanting to get away from life's attendant stresses while also longing for support and human connection. In one line, Badu laments the demands placed on her as an artist, mother and lover and she longs for a window seat on a jet plane and a safe touch down somewhere - anywhere - far away from those demands. Yet, Badu realizes that she depends on all of those people just like they depend on her: "I need you to want me/I need you to miss me/I need your attention/Yes, I need you next to me," Badu coos in her best angst-filled Billie Holiday.

"Out of My Mind, Just In Time" recalls "Green Eyes" from Mama's Gun. Like that song, "Out of My Mind, Just In Time," is a 10 minute-plus opus that has the feel of a stream-of-conscious rant because of the changes in pace that appear to correspond to the singer's changing mood. Budu didn't need to strip to her birthday suit in Dealy Plaza to affirm her cutting-edge bonafides, because her music shows that the singer is far ahead of most mainstream artists. Recommended

By Howard Dukes

 
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