Angela Johnson - “To Love Again” (audio) (Premiere)

Photos: James Anthony Photography

Reaching an exciting juncture in her career, Angela Johnson triumphs with new single “To Love Again”.

When Purpose Music Group released Naturally Me (2014) last year, listeners were treated to what is arguably the most fully realized album of Angela Johnson's career. “Everything I’ve been waiting to do I put on this one particular album,” she shared in a recent interview with Neo Soul Café. While Johnson’s talents as a singer, composer, producer, and musician have always delivered solid efforts, something special’s been ignited on Naturally Me. The power of Johnson’s creative gestation shines from start to finish. With guests like Raul Midón and Onaje Allan Gumbs, Naturally Me features some of Johnson’s finest compositions, from the frisky and funky “Handz” to the sizzling instrumental “Music’s My Religion” to the profound words and melody of “Black Boy Lullaby”.

Purpose has selected album opener “To Love Again” as Johnson’s first single of 2015 (and the second single off Naturally Me). It’s a smart choice. "I wanted to write a song about having hope for love," she shares with PopMatters. "Even after a great loss, one can only have faith that it will return. Musically, I was inspired by the Motown sound of the '60s. I envisioned a Supremes-like vocal arrangement surrounded by live instrumentation such as strings, horns, guitar, bass, drums, and of course, vintage keys!" Written, arranged, and produced by Johnson, “To Love Again” is anchored by a superb cast of musicians, including Lisala Beatty, Tiffany T’zelle Wilson, and Darius Booker on background vocals.

“To Love Again” is the first Angela Johnson song that could be described as haunting. Stylistically, it takes Johnson in a slightly different direction without losing the searing kind of soul that’s long been her signature. It’s clear that she’s drawing from a new well of inspiration. The strings and background vocals have a spectral presence in the introduction, further embellished by the eerie, high-pitched tone of an organ. “My heart’s broken into pieces and it’s not healing like it should,” Johnson sings, completing the tableau of despair. However, part of the song’s brilliance is how the mood gradually shifts, musically and lyrically, without disrupting the flow. The pre-chorus builds and climaxes with horns before Johnson fervently declares, “I deserve to be loved again!” The second verse calls upon the same doleful atmosphere as the first before Johnson brings listeners back to the light. As the music fades, there’s no doubt that Johnson will emerge triumphant in her quest for love.

Ultimately, "To Love Again", and Naturally Me as a complete work, prove that soul music is alive and well … and flourishing.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

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

This week on our games podcast, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

This week, Nick and Eric talk about the joy and frustration of killing Nazis in Wolfenstein: The New Order.

Keep reading... Show less

Which is the draw, the art or the artist? Critic Rachel Corbett examines the intertwined lives of two artists of two different generations and nationalities who worked in two starkly different media.

Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

Keep reading... Show less

Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

France's most celebrated home-grown detective character is Georges Simenon's Inspector Jules Maigret, an aging Paris homicide detective who, phlegmatically and unflappably, tracks down murderers to their lairs at the center of the human heart. He's invariably icon-ified as a shadowy figure smoking an eternal pipe, less fancy than Sherlock Holmes' curvy calabash but getting the job done in its laconic, unpretentious, middle-class manner.

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

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