Bilal spreads out on his new CD

Kevin C. Johnson
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MCT)

ST. LOUIS — Soul singer Bilal emerged as a promising new act in 2001 with his album "1st Born Second," though hardly any of what came next was according to plan.

As his fans are painfully aware, it took almost a full decade for the release of his proper follow-up, last year's "Airtight's Revenge." Along the way, a widely bootlegged album called "Love for Sale" surfaced.

Bilal says the release of "Airtight's Revenge" was "a relief."

"I felt like my music was getting out there whether I wanted it to or not," he says. "I had to leave the label and find other avenues to make music. That's what made it take so long."

He says he would like to officially release "Love for Sale" one day but doesn't know when it might happen.

"Airtight's Revenge" is the first time Bilal has put out a record where he "didn't think in terms of making a radio song."

"I was just putting out some raw material, so it felt cool," he says. "This is one of those bare-bone records. I wanted to make a record about the world and the struggles, and that's what I did. I wasn't really thinking about anything other than that. I also wanted to make tunes that were creative and to not think about songs in terms of, 'Oh, this might be too long,' though looking back I could have shortened it up."

In releasing "Airtight's Revenge," Bilal put out what he calls his "rebel record," inspired by legends such as Curtis Mayfield, Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead.

He experimented freely with soul, rock, electronic and jazz elements, something he'd been wanting to do for a long time.

"I worked with different sounds that might not be deemed too soulful, but these were all the things I wanted to do, which is kind of not the norm," Bilal says. "That was one of my biggest issues around the time of 'Love for Sale.' I produced that record and had different elements, and the label didn't understand it. But this time I said (screw) it. I'm doing everything I wanted to do and try all the different things I wanted to try."

"Airtight's Revenge" instantly knocks Bilal out of the "neo-soul" category where he was lumped when he first arrived, much to his chagrin.

"I don't like any kind of categorization, but I know that's the way music registers to people," he says.

Previously, Bilal has performed live with a DJ. This time, he's coming with a full band.

"It's a whole different energy," he says. "With a live band, you can go so many different places. With a DJ, it's pretty much a set show. We'll be able to do the music more freely. It's going to be a journey."

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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

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