No one can write about love and heartache quite like Meshell Ndegeocello can. While those themes are weaved throughout her work, no album made this more apparent than 1999's Bitter. About the loss of a lover, Bitter was moody and melancholy, obvious pain and remorse contained in almost every note. It was also one of Meshell's finer moments on record. Since Bitter, Meshell has experimented with other styles and genres as vast and differing as jazz, spoken word, hip hop, and rock. However, her latest album Weather is a return of sorts to Bitter's themes, but this time exploring not only the hurt, but the joy that love and life can bring as well.
The record starts off with the surprising country twang of the first track where she talks about life's (and love's) ups and downs. "We can always blame it on the weather," she sings, embracing what may come with open arms. Though "Weather" is relatively lighthearted, what follows are songs heavy with mood and substance. "Oysters," for example, while seemingly a simple love song, has so many textures. It's just Meshell's layered vocal and a lovely piano, but she wrings so much from the lyrics, evoking more feeling and beauty than you'd expect.
A welcome break from the slower, more reflective mood of the album is "Dirty World." It's funky bass riff reminds us of how nasty Meshell can be on the bass (reminiscent a bit of her first hit "If That's Your Boyfriend"). It cuts through and grabs you as Meshell sings about the ills afflicting the planet. Once "World" ends, we're eased back into the album's initial feel with "A Bitter Mule" and the interesting "Crazy and Wild," which layers Meshell's vocals with that of an unidentified male vocalist, creating a contrast that is alluring.
Speaking of alluring, "La Petit Mort" is perhaps the sexiest thing you'll hear all year. It's title, a euphemism for an orgasm, sums up exactly what the song's subject is. But in case you still aren't quite sure, she gruffly asks, "Who's your daddy?" and then answers sweetly "You are" during the chorus. It's thumping bass line coupled with the huskiness of Meshell's voice is pure perfection and makes this song an album highlight.
With its slower, more drawn out pacing, Weather might not necessarily be what you pull out for a party...and that's okay. It's meant to be something more personal, more enduring than just background noise. This is an album that you can listen to when you're in love or heartbroken, happy or sad, and find something that suits your mood just fine. Meshell has once again transcended simply making music and has, instead, created a work of art that serves as a soundtrack to this thing we call life.