Music

Meshell Ndegeocello: Devil's Halo

With Devil's Halo, Meshell Ndegeocello reinvents herself yet again and creates her best album since the one-two punch of her masterworks, Bitter and Cookie.


Meshell Ndegeocello

Devil's Halo

Label: Downtown
US Release Date: 2009-10-06
UK Release Date: 2009-10-06
Label Website
Artist Website
Amazon
iTunes

Intense.

That's always the first word that comes to mind when anyone mentions Meshell Ndegeocello. Her music eschews sentiment for emotion. There's a stark acceptance that life is rough, passionate, trying, and beautiful in Ndegeocello's work. She never shies away from how heavy and messy human emotion can be.

So it's somewhat refreshing that on her 8th album, Devil's Halo, she opens up a bit and embraces humor and lighter moments. It would seem that on this album, Ndegeocello is less concerned with how emotion strikes a person (be it love, pain, or sex), but how people relate to that emotion. And in the process she creates the tightest, most emotionally potent work she's produced since Bitter.

Ndegeocello's emotionally mature perspective here is striking in its simplicity. As the album title suggests, she takes the good with the bad.

On the opening track, "Slaughter", she says "My love will lead you to slaughter / If you see it coming I'd run the other way / I'm the spawn of a sick mother". The song, with its alternating melodic plea and raucous funk, is a beautiful acknowledgement that you often run from love because it can be all-consuming and destructive. In that way, it is a love song, but a more realistic one. A few tracks later, on "Lola", she brilliantly deconstructs the comfort and stability that relationships and marriage are supposed to provide, and questions why anyone would even want such things ("everyone thinks they're so fuckin special").

And on the album closer, a beautiful exploration of loss called "Crying in Your Beer", she honestly looks at how loved ones can be taken for granted when they are alive – "Sometimes I forget who we are / I forget we're in love / Don't let me die alone".

It would be a mistake to listen to these songs and think that they are sad indictments of love and life's pitfalls. They are not (her brilliant cover of Ready for the World's 80's classic "Love You Down" is weirdly romantic, in fact). What Ndegeocello explores is the somewhat commonplace nature of human interaction, down to the isolating nature of "Mass Transit".

There isn't really a bad track on Devil's Halo. At 37 minutes, it doesn't run long enough to have any filler. That will make it a relatively easy listen for the uninitiated.

For Ndegeocello fans though, it is tempting to say that the Devil's Halo and Bitter are just two sides of the same coin -- which isn't really accurate, I don't think. Anyone who insinuates that this is the happier version of Bitter is missing the point. Devil's Halo, even with songs like "Bright Shiny Morning" isn't really a happy album. But it isn't really a sad one either. It rejects this paradigm as a false choice and as such it is really Bitter with a greater sense of perspective of life's realities.

9

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less
Culture

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less
Books

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image