Erykah Badu’s ‘Return’ Is As Rewarding The Second Time Around

Six albums into her career, love her or hate her, Erykah Badu has always had the effect of having opinions rendered on her. If you're reading this, you already know which side of her fence you're on. New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh won't answer any more questions than Part One did. It is not an entry way into her world, much as New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War and Baduizm was. Part Two is much like the middle child when it comes to this three part trilogy. It may seem to be seeking more attention that you're initially willing to give it. It is just as important as the first and the third. It is essential that you listen to it because without it, you'll be forever lost.

Let's say you like, nay love, Erykah Badu. You're charged right now. You've likely already listened to the album five times today and really are not interested in reading this review as you are in going straight to the comments to profess your unyielding love for her. Fine. Fire away. This review is not for you.

This review is moreso for those who don't really get her. For those who are tired of her theatrics and just wish she would either fade or quit enrapturing those of us who feel that she is a unique force of our generation, this isn't a plea. You didn't like that new video with her being all naked for no reason. After all, it was a marketing ploy. Or another one of her hairbrained schemes to attract attention to herself. Why else would she have so many kids with rappers? For the attention of course! But you like "Window Seat." It had a familiar sound to it. It made you feel comfortable. Reminded you of a song that you've heard before but somehow couldn't place. For those of you in this group, I promise this album will please you more than you know. Why? Because like a bridge over eclectic waters, it is an offering. "Join me," it almost seems to say. You'll probably really dig "Umm Hmm," its title a nonverbal affirmation. Enjoy the covers of "Turn Me Away (Get Munny)" (see: Sylvia Striplin's "You Can't Turn Me Away") and "Fall In Love (Your Funeral)" (see: Eddie Kendrick's "Intimate Friends") Enjoy the Notorious B.I.G. reference to "slow singing and flower bringing." That was when Neo Soul was King. That's all over now, but no matter. Once again, these songs will be a comfort to you.

After you feel a bit more adventurous, Erykah will betray you. She'll go on and on with her Khemetic references and language. She'll work your nerves with "Agitation." Include static and harp chords on "Love" and whatever the hell else she thinks makes sense in that crazy head of hers. And before you know it, you may even find yourself shocked and amazed that you're even listening to the coldest and shortest track on the album "You Loving Me (Session)." "Did this chick really just sing verse about spending ends, drinking gin, and fucking her man's friends?" Yes, she did. And it is just as wild, jaw-dropping, and fulfilling the tenth time around.

Although the songs I'm mentioning are out of sequence of the track order of this album, Erykah Badu remains one of the few artists today who remembers that track sequencing is just as important as the cover art and liner notes--remember those? Over the span of her six albums, what has become evident is that the last song of each album is an oeuvre, not of her life but of the album as a whole. In this instance, that song is the Georgia Anne Muldrow-produced "Out Of My Mind, Just In Time." Like "Green Eyes" from Mama's Gun and "Telephone" from Part One, "Out Of my Mind" is a lengthy track that showcases Erykah's vulnerability, this time for a lover whose love is both awesome and frightening at the same time. In other words, the heart-in-your-mouth feeling of falling in love.

In short, you can avoid this album if you want. You can be just be content to listen ad nauseum to "Window Seat" and that may suit you just fine. More likely than not, you'll add more and more of these songs to your repertoire of listenable songs from this album. Then before you know it, you'll notice that you've listened to the entire album with nary a skip. You'll casually chalk it up to not paying attention. But you'll secretly know that your zoning out was due to this force of musical nature taking control of a small piece of your life once again.

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6 Responses

  1. Love it! Love it! Love it! It was well worth the wait!

  2. Still got the album on repeat. On and on, on and on.....

  3. This is so ON POINT. I was thinking the same thing listening to the catalog yesterday (minus live) as far as her sequencing goes. Its kind of like all her albums are alternate versions of themselves if that makes sense.

  4. My coworker brought it to work this morning played the damn album all day, 3 songs I found some what listenable. Window seat, track #9 which bangs that ole sweet sable sample and track # 4 which bangs that Jr. Mafia sample. The rest of the album..................well lets just say my coworker better not bring this album back to the office:-) out of the collective 12 people on my floor, 2 absolutely loved it, 9 of us thought it was just ok but not worth spending money on and 1 person thought it was the worst album of all time............

  5. Sounds like a letdown from work, guess, I will save money.

  6. Great review/feature.
    I think that Badu will always be an artist who divides opinion, whether it be through her music, videos or her personal life. There will always be the people who don't 'get' her, or just dislike her sound as much as there are those who love her. That's what makes her an interesting, amazing artist. Her ability to make people think/discuss.
    I'm loving Return Of The Ankh, just like I did Part 1 and her other albums (ok, WWU was a bit of a 'wobble' IMO), and EVERYONE should give it at least a listen before they decide it's not for them.


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