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Monday, February 02, 2015

D'Angelo and The Vanguard: Performance Art on Saturday Night Live

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I have to admit, I didn't really hear this song until D'Angelo and The Vanguard played it on Saturday Night Live over the weekend. I've enjoyed it many times, as I've listened to it in my car. But on Saturday night, D'Angelo and his group really brought it home for me. It's hard to make out what he's saying on a lot of the songs on Black Messiah, his latest CD, unless you listen as you read along to the lyrics.

I've always been more into the music than the words of a song -- I just love great musicianship and really get into what the different instruments are doing, and the harmonies. But with "The Charade," I did myself a disservice by not really paying attention to what D'Angelo was getting across. Well, he and his group did that astoundingly well on Saturday Night Live as many of them wore T-Shirts that read, "I Can't Breathe" and "Black Lives Matter." For those who don't know (and I don't know who that could be), these phrases are reminders of the murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, both shot and killed by police officers. The musicians also raised their fists in the Black Power salute, periodically and in unison. To give the image more force, D'Angelo stood in front of a chalk outline drawn on the floor. The song starts off with subtle guitar licks, but the TV images were stark. They had me at "I Can't Breathe."

On this number and many of the tunes on Black Messiah, D'Angelo invokes Prince and Marvin Gaye. He's got Prince's Minneapolis flavor with guitar player, Jesse Johnson (from The Time), he's got a falsetto similar to Prince's, and he's got the Artist's drummer, John Blackwell. He does voice layering like Marvin Gaye, seemlessly harmonizing with himself, like Gaye did on so many songs. But he's got his own passion, intentions, and talent that make Black Messiah a masterpiece. It certainly rises above anything I've heard in years, from anybody.

What D'Angelo and The Vanguard did on Saturday Night Live with "The Charade" was pure performance art. They took us somewhere, made us feel, and inspired us to do something -- at least I hope so.

Check out the performance here:



And here are the lyrics:

The Charade (lyrics by Kendra Foster and Michael Eugene Archer)

Crawling through a systematic maze
And it pains to demise
Pain in our eyes
Strain of drownin', wading into your lies
Degradation so loud that you can't hear the sound of our cries (doo, doo)
All the dreamers have gone to the side of the road which we will lay on
Inundated by media, virtual mind f----s in streams


[CHORUS]
All we wanted was a chance to talk
'Stead we only got outlined in chalk
Feet have bled a million miles we've walked
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade

Perpetrators beware say a prayer if you dare for the believers
With a faith at the size of a seed enough to be redeemed (doo doo)
Relegated to savages bound by the way of the deceivers
So anchors be sure that you're sure we ain't no amateurs


[CHORUS]
All we wanted was a chance to talk
'Stead we only got outlined in chalk
Feet have bled a million miles we've walked
Revealing at the end of the day, the charade


[BRIDGE]
With the veil off our eyes we'll truly see
And we'll march on
And it really won't take too long
And it really won't take us very long

8 comments:

ADonni Samuels said...

The musicality of his lyrics and their phasing can drown out the punch on many of Black Messiah's tracks! 1000 Deaths and Till It's Done are are as equally powerful. He was definitely gone too long!

Alicia Benjamin said...

Maybe it was his strategy to make the listener go read the lyrics. If so -- that's pretty clever. There's not a bad song on the CD. As a matter of fact, most of them are genius.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing info on d'angelo. i have enjoyed his music from way back. must check out black messia.

Alicia Benjamin said...

You will Love it! I guarantee it.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is awesome. It had an old feel and great message, visual and vocal.

Love You MaDear

Alicia Benjamin said...

Wasn't it MaDear? It's such a great song -- all around and yes, it could have been made decades ago -- it's got that real soul feel and the musicians are actually playing instruments with that deep soulful feeling.

Anonymous said...

This is awesome…thanks sis…man I love him…

Alicia Benjamin said...

He really outdid himself with "Black Messiah" sister. It's a masterpiece.