Neo-soul songstress Erykah Badu is back on the music scene with a new album, “New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)” Since her last release, “New Amerykah Part One (4th World War)” two years ago, Badu stepped up her game with a solid collection of 11 stirring songs.
The album opens softly with “20 Feet Tall,” a song about an emotional barrier, that’s made up almost entirely of keys and pure vocals. The lyrics are too repetitive, but the scatting between the looped verses is just one reason why people love Badu.
She progresses to a smooth soul beat with “Window Seat,” which is much more of what her fans tend to expect of her. Badu’s great vocal harmonies, quiet percussion and flowing vocal over hand claps make for a romantic beat to sway to.
She follows up with “Agitation,” a track that listeners could really do without. Badu repeats the phrase, “What a day,” which is occasionally broken up by boring two-line verses.
A backing musician optimally utilizes a bass pedal to turn up the funk on “Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY).”
“Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long” kicks off with some rhythm on the cymbals, which is then joined by low-key guitar licks. A song about missing the one you love while they’re out doing their thing during the day, “Gone Baby” is the catchiest song about encouraging someone to “get [their] hustle on” that anyone’s heard in a long time.
In “Umm Hmm,” Badu sings about how good her love interest makes her feel. While the radio-style intro isn’t particularly necessary, it gives the song a unique aspect.
“Love” has more of the guitar beat that listeners might have been expecting earlier in the album. The vocals are too whiney for the track to be fully enjoyed, though.
A strong piano-driven track, “You Loving Me (Session)” goes by a bit too quickly.
“Fall in Love (Your Funeral)” is Badu’s invitation to her (former) love interest to show himself his way to the door and out of her life. She warns him that he shouldn’t fall in love with her because he doesn’t know what he’s getting into. She’s got just the right amount of sass on this track.
“Incense (featuring Kirsten Agnesta)” opens with the sound of angelic strings and continues with airy, weightless vocals, both of which are distinctive features that greatly vary from the rest of the tracks on the album.
Badu wraps it up with “Out My Mind, Just in Time,” a jazz tune that’s more than 10 minutes long, and unfortunately too slow and dragged out to hold a listener’s attention at the end of the album.
While no song on “New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)” has half as much spunk as her 1997 hit single “Tyrone,” the new album is a great place for inexperienced Badu fans to start exploring her sound further.
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