Seven Thoughts After Listening to Soul Singer Bilal’s latest, In Another Life

Seven Thoughts after listening to Bilal’s In Another Life, produced by Adrian Younge

In Another Life, a welcomed return for the well-known soul singer

Hip Hop artists have been showing out in 2015. R&B flexed a little bit too. But other than heavy hitters like Miguel and of course D’Angelo and popular newbies The Internet and Sam Cooke musical progeny, Leon Bridges, we haven’t seen a huge resurgence in soul artists at all. And then at the end of June here comes along well-known soul singer Bilal. Bilal’s been around for quite some time releasing his first studio album, 1st Born Second, in 2001. But even before that, he had already been associated with Erykah Badu, Common, The Roots and Jill Scott being featured on many of their projects and shows. Similar to many artists release in that era, his style has remained the same and his sound remained loyal to that original vibe. And for that reason, this newest project was consistently good from beginning to end. In Another Life is a much-needed album in a time of constant threats on black culture from all fronts. Albeit short with just 12 tracks, this album is a cool, mellow valley among peaks of disturbing and problematic events that have shaped the first six months of 2015. I took a listen to a seasoned artist with fresh ears. Here are my gut reactions.

Check out his performance from this year’s Essence Festival In New Orleans.

1) In Another Life, gives a nod to the similarly titled track on D’Angelo’s Black Messiah. The Album had a similar vibe but with much more intelligible lyrics. No shade to D’angelo. That’s bae. A majority of those lyrics were incomprehensible, but  it still jammed. Each song on In Another Life bleeds into the next (a la Common’s Be or Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun). Producer Adrian Younge uses the same hi-hat,kick drum combo for many of the tracks to retain consistency and flow. He uses the Picasso Baby beat and variations of it generously throughout.

2) Brought back into the mainstream on Kendrick Lamar’s latest, To Pimp a Butterfly released in March of this year,  Bilal returns the favor with a Kendrick feature on the track Money Over Love, a song rooted in tough decisions: between the love of money or the guilt of selling out. Kendrick’s verse is flawless as usual.

3) Now as a black 20-something raised below the Mason Dixie, I can assure you I was brought up on some Al Green and Marvin Gaye. And reminiscing back on Saturday Morning chores, I’m pretty sure track seven Pleasure Toy feat. Big K.R.I.T. is what Marvin Gaye meant by Sexual Healing. This not so subtle callback to the 70s is modernized by Big K.R.I.T., a rather predictable feature but offers a solid verse nonetheless

4) The album is not devoid of the ever-present social justice issues; police brutality, mental illness and poverty.  Bilal has never shied away from these issues in the past and the debut single, Satellites describes living on the outside looking in at the things we desire and either cannot afford or cannot enjoy due to circumstance. It illustrates daily life while living in those moments of despair.The Satellite video depicts the singer being accosted by the police at the end of the video. He somehow managed to translate these heavy issues into a light-hearted, airy song

Watch as Bilal discusses his inspiration

5) Track ten Holding You Back has that exact effect on the listener. At first you try to resist the notes and lyrics so obviously about sexual desire. You eventually give in, blessedly, to melodies of Bilal and Kimbra, to whom he donated his voice for the sultry Everlovin’ Ya.

6) Similar to Pleasure Toy, and flowing effortlessly from track Holding You Back, Spiraling sounds like the footsteps Ron Isley must’ve heard in the dark so long ago. It reminds me of that one song from the 70s I can’t quite put my finger on. Either way, it’s very sexytimeyesplease.

7) After listening to it 50leven times, I can say that In Another life is not the groundbreaking album many were looking for from him, but at the very least, he matches the fervor for a return of R&B and soul music. 2015 will continue to be a great year for music. I invite new listeners and old head hip hop snobs to join me.

In Another Life track list:

“Sirens II”
“Star Now”
“Open Up the Door”
“I Really Don’t Care”
“Pleasure Toy,” featuring Big K.R.I.T.
“Money Over Love,” featuring Kendrick Lamar
“Love Child”
“Holding Back,” featuring Kimbra
“Bury Me Next to You”

Author-Christine Edwards @yea_me2

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