Nine albums in, Meshell Ndegeocello has arrived into full icon status. Her music helped lay the foundation the urban alternative movement of today. Meshell is a musician’s musician, sought out by the best when only the best will do. She has held her own on stages with Eric Clapton, John Mellencamp, Herbie Hancock and Bill Withers to name a few, rightfully earning the reputation as a world class singer/songwriter/musician to be reckoned with. The emotional transparency she displays in her music makes us feel as if we know her, or maybe just wish we did. Since first stepping on the scene in the late 90’s, she has provided sonic therapy, helping us feel, deal and heal. Whether she’s supporting pop stars on bass, lending her trademark deep vocals to duets with rock legends, or creating magic on her solo tracks, Meshell Ndegeocello lives and breathes for what she does. Raw emotion is her art and music her chosen medium.
When I first discovered Meshell Ndegeocello’s music, I connected with it because I am a lover down to my core. I believe in the Bohemian ideals of love accepting its highs, lows and everything in between. I connect with her music because I connect with the place from which it is birthed. Her new offering, Weather, is soulful, sexy and even sad at times, but it introduces us to an evolved Meshell. It is not without themes of love, lust and lost, but the perspective from which she writes this time is that of a woman who has seen love in all its colors and lived to tell about it. What’s refreshing is that Weather doesn’t come off as bitter or with a ”woe is me” vibe. It’s edgy, confident and fresh, something many artists with her longevity have difficulty pulling off with authenticity. Somehow, Meshell has found herself again and Weather is a collection of verbal healings that brings us along for the ride.
I’ve always been a fan of Meshell’s sultry ballads, so I fell hard for “Chelsea Hotel” straight away. It tells the story of a love, or perhaps just a lover’s rendezvous, destined to end before it begins. Other ballads include the hauntingly sincere “Oyster” and the poignant, seductive “A Bitter Mule.” But just like its namesake, Weather is a moment-to-moment phenomenon. One minute you’re being wooed by hypnotic slow jams, but the tempo kicks up the next and you’re nodding you’re head to equally heavy lyrics laced over funky electronic tracks. “Dead End” is clearly the breakout star, as far as the latter is concerned. It starts off with heavy distorted guitar plucking, then melts into a brighter, more melodious tune, while maintaining an edgy, electro-pop/rock persona that equals yes, yes, yes.
In my perfect musical world, I can pop in an album and listen to it the whole way through in uninterrupted bliss; this means I can enjoy it in its entirety without having to skip any “less-than” tracks. Weather started out like a warm, comfortable shower. The water pressure was perfect and I felt I could stand under its flow ad infinitum. But my moment was cut short by an obnoxious toilet flush called “Crazy and Wild.” Though each track on Weather is unique in sound and lyrical content, they create a synergistic work of art that is cohesive, yet heterogeneous; “Crazy and Wild” is simply obtuse. Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics and music are on point, I just can’t embrace the male voice singing with her throughout the track. I’ve been anticipating this album since Devil’s Halo dropped two years ago and, well, I think it would have been complete featuring no voices other than Meshell’s. I’m sticking a pin in this opinion though, because I’m willing to admit the bugger may grow on me. For now, it isn’t my cup of tea.
I had high expectations for Weather, but had no idea I would once again experience the Comfort Woman-esque emotional journey that solidified me as a Meshell Ndegeocello fan in the first place. This is “grown folks’” music; raw, not always pretty, but undeniably real. We’ve watched Meshell love and we’ve watched her hurt; Weather is the strong and reassured woman who emerged on the other side. It is more than an album, it is intimacy–a look into another’s soul; an invitation, a privileged encounter. Mainstream may not get this, but that’s okay; rarely are masterpieces recognized as such when they are created. But for those like me, living by the tune of our heart’s strings and believing in love above all else, Weather is far from the beaten path and that’s just the way we like it.
And clenching your fist for the ones like us, who are oppressed by the figures of beauty, you fixed yourself, you said, “Well, never mind. We are ugly, but we have the music.”
– from “Chelsea Hotel”