Soul man D'Angelo returns… hallelujah!

Soul survivor D’Angelo comes back from the wilderness with two NYC-area dates

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D'Angelo

D'Angelo Photograph: Courtesy Live Nation

In a recent interview for GQ, both D’Angelo and the director of 2000’s “Untitled” music video swear that the singer is contemplating his grandma’s cooking when he licks his lips in the clip. Watching the footage again now (it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it), it’s hard to say what’s more outrageous: the sheer unlikeliness of the claim being true, or the still-dizzying potency of the video itself. D’Angelo stands alone, naked as far as the eye can see (there were pajama pants at the shoot, apparently—held up with Scotch tape?); the camera lingers shamelessly on his nipples and shuddering abs, as his head tilts back in ecstasy at the song’s bed-breaking climax.


Needless to say, the video made D’Angelo very famous. He was already doing well on the strength of 1995 album Brown Sugar; the crisp, lilting harmonies that would become indubitably his were already in place. Similarly, while the video for “Lady” has the singer wearing gigantoid jeans and a do-rag, he still has that slow, sly look in his eyes. Voodoo, however, changed everything. The album was and still is a sublime work. It fuses light-as-a-feather, tricksy jazz runs to tight little finger snaps and speaker-fuzzing basslines; the music is spare but somehow luscious, ornamented with ruffles and flurries of brass that seem to unravel the record as it plays. Add in the video for “Untitled,” and D’Angelo was soul catnip to his fans—and it damn near killed him.


When one of the screaming women in the crowd at a gig threw money onto the stage, it was too much. “That made me feel fucked up,” he told GQ, “and I threw the money back at her. I’m not a stripper.” As the Voodoo tour wound up, D’Angelo began to break down. Fame and partying puffed him up and sucked out his spirit; in 2005 he was arrested for DUI, and an unflattering mug shot (see below) made the rounds. A stint at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads rehab clinic helped, but the singer was arrested again in 2010 for soliciting an undercover policewoman for a blow job.


It seemed almost against the odds that D’Angelo would, or even could, stage a comeback—amazing that a handful of gigs in Europe last year happened at all. But the singer astonished at the shows, then made his big, official comeback at this year’s BET Awards—a black-leather-“Good God!” performance that had even the singer walking away from the piano in near disgust at how damn good it sounded.


A new D’Angelo album is due, but there’s no telling when it will arrive; one is reminded of a Mae West line: “A guy what takes his time, I’d go for anytime.… A hasty job really spoils a master’s touch.” For now, this is likely the first chance in a decade you’ve had to see the soul star perform live. We suggest you take it.


D'Angelo plays Nikon at Jones Beach Theater Sunday 19 and PNC Bank Arts Center August 23.


The rise and fall and rise again…of D’Angelo

Academic essays have been written on the cultural significance of the soul star’s “Untitled” video, for which D’Angelo’s body was chiseled to perfection by trainer Mark Jenkins. We’d write one too, if we could stop watching it.


After a few too many servings of the “Devil’s Pie,”D’Angelo was arrested for DUI in 2005, and then again in 2010, looking for sex on the LES. This year he told GQ: “I’m not the role-model motherfucker. Look at all the shit I’ve been in.”


In 2011, the star began working with Voodoo producer Questlove again, with an album—working title James River—in the pipeline. D’Angelo played a rapturously received show in Stockholm, and then killed it at the BET Awards in July.



Follow Sophie Harris on Twitter: @SophieMeve

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