“I am Nina Simone in the park and Harlem in the dark (…) and if you don’t let me in I’m the shot in the air when the party ends” – Alicia sings in the interlude “The Beginning” of her latest album called Here. I let her in and she took me on a fantastic journey I’d like to repeat. Shivers from the very first minute of an album – this rarely happens. To begin an album (according to Hitchcock’s rule) with an earthquake is not fake or cliché, but a brave move. A brave move of a pawn on the chessboard of music. Pawn who wants to be the queen.
You would say “wow, these are some huge ambitions” but Here is not throwing caution to the wind. It is a very sharp scythe with which Alicia cuts heads of the entire competition who even dared to release so-called “personal”, “honest” or “very-emotional” albums – I’m talking about present competition and the one that apparently rest on their laurels (no shade, no no). It’s been fifteen years since her memorable debut Songs in A Minor came out and she needed all this time to release a proper manifesto, which words cut deep. From the first bars of “The Gospel” we immerse ourselves in the world which is close to the realest soul values – something what was entirely delivered last time on 2014’s Black Messiah by D’Angelo. Social injustice, discrimination – without colorful gimmicks, flattering to mainstream which is already floating in uncritical self-admiration.
Let’s talk about the most interesting moments on this record – “She Don’t Really Care_1 Luv” and “Illusion of Bliss” are the longest two songs on the album, arranged roughly in the middle – almost twelve minutes of music where you’re going to get sucked into a vortex of emotionally saturated reality. Not necessarily the most pleasant, dark, devoided of prospects in life traps. There are lighter moments on the album, too: songs like “Blended Family (What You Do For Love) or “More Than We Know” are flashing with vivid colors and rhythms which is needed on the tracklist containing eighteen songs and making a room for a trinity – “Holy War”, “Hallelujah” and “In Common” – first single which is crowning the entire record and one of the best lead singles we’ve had in 2016.
Here is a treatment and it has truly optimistic messages on this meticulously constructed longplay, which is perhaps its greatest value. There is no room for self-pity or for the hand-wringing. This positive aspect is indeed the most important advantage of this incredible record. The best since the debut and the most fundamental in comparison with her previous works. Hands down.
Best tracks: She Don’t Really Care_1 Luv, Illusion Of Bliss, Blended Family (What You Do For Love), More Than We Know, Hallelujah, In Common
(8.8 / 10)