With an album title like The Powerful Now, one might think that singer-songwriter Anthony David has ambitions of becoming the Eckhart Tolle of soul. Thankfully, the sixth studio album from the GRAMMY Award-nominated artist doesn’t lead us on any wild goose chases in search of the meaning of life, ask us to learn a love language or take himself too seriously. That would be counter to the magic that is Anthony David. Though he’s always written about facing life’s great troubles, going back to his work with India.Arie, David has always remained grounded, feet firmly planted in the red dirt and clay instead of the lofty and ambiguous. The Powerful Now is no different, as the singer delivers a long player full of thoughtful compositions that run the gamut of the personal to the profound.
The album starts with the Curtis Mayfield-esque “Ride On,” which tells the the tale of a young ghetto child running wild who grows up to become a rolling stone. However, instead of falling into the traps of those who’ve come before him, he takes heed of their cautionary tales and finally mans up.
Next up is the title track, "The Powerful Now." Here, David informs his audience that they should embrace the moment for what it is because really, that’s the only thing they can control, “so relax and allow it to be.” While this could come off as puerile in the hands of others, David infuses depth and feeling into his message, crafting an arrangement that makes the song a soft affirmation against a simple but lush soundbed of finger snaps, piano and guitar. If that wasn’t enough to get you into your existential feelings, there’s also the soothing “Ayodele.” A Yoruba word meaning “joy has come home,” the song explores finding happiness and healing by connecting with your fellow man.
While David can dwell on weighty matters, it doesn’t hinder him from having a good time. Take the pair of Afrobeat and Caribbean-inspired ditties, “I Don’t Mind” and the “Amber.” On "I Don't Mind," David admires his woman shaking her groove thing on the dance floor and takes joy in the jealous stares of others. Though the Auto Tune-heavy track may not be up everyone’s alley, it’s a fun and creative uptempo addition to the project. On the "Amber," he continues to give us island-grooves with a pretty straightforward remake of the 311 reggae song. However, Anthony’s raspy vocals give the track new life.
Switching gears, David embraces a more rock sound on “Out of My League.” While Ne-Yo celebrates his “Independent Woman,” David isn’t quite as elated. Instead, he’s showing us the vulnerability and insecurity that comes with dating a woman that has her own, lamenting “Every time we fight / I know that her friends keep telling her / All in her ear saying her she can do better. "
Of course, what would an Anthony David album be without duets? Going back to “Words” featuring India.Arie, they’ve always been the artist’s bread and butter, as there’s a special kind of magic that happens when he lends his raspy tenor to the angelic vocals of a woman co-star. There’s the laid-back cupcaking jam “Booed Up” with Mylah, with talk about rainy days and having breakfast in bed. Then there’s the jazzy “Never Again” where David and Reesa Renee go through the motions, unable to live with each other but knowing they can’t live without each other over stark piano. Finally, there’s “Charge” a reprise of his duet with Carmen Rodgers, which is still as beautiful as the first time we heard it. Instead of offering up the same old love song, David offers a variety of duets that go from fun to turbulent to romantic.
The album closes with “Inevitable,” where Anthony talks about becoming better, faster, stronger and more in the face of life's great challenges over a electric guitar-fueled chorus. However, David isn't boasting or saying he's perfect, but that he's willing to step to the plate whenever he's called and do his best, which is the only thing we can ask of him or ourselves.
On The Powerful Now, Anthony David doesn't attempt to tell one long story or have a grand vision. Instead, he opts to share a variety of stories that, while not part of a cohesive whole, feel more genuine than other projects that set out with an agenda. He's a griot, not a svengali. He’s earned our devotion earnestly with creative and soulful compositions that hit home without being preachy, whether he’s discussing the ins and outs of this thing called love or this thing called life. Working through trials and tribulations like the rest of us, David offers insights and empathy that speaks to our own experiences. Not every song or message is for everyone, but the melodies are still enchanting and the vocals are always on point. Overall, this album is a powerful statement that shouldn't be ignored.