Album Review: Me’Shell Ndegeocello – “Weather”
Weather is Me’Shell Ndegeodello’s grown-up album.
It’s always a little sad when formerly rebellious, iconoclastic artists start making music that seems safer, the kind of albums you could play at a dinner party with your parents. But it may be a bit early to break out some Ndegeocello along with the good dishes. Weather is mellow, no doubt; it leaves behind both the jarring sonic experimentation and the frank political lyrics of Ndegeocello’s previous releases. But there is still plenty that is sexy and unsettling, or unsettlingly sexy. In other words, this is still a Me’Shell Ndegeocello album. Hide your parents.
Take her cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel”. Now, while this reviewer is admittedly a sucker for a Leonard Cohen song, covers of his music have often failed to add anything new to his work. Ndegeocello’s cover adds crazy layers. Alternating between her two recognizable voices – the vulnerable, feminine song and the seductive, masculine murmur – Ndegeocello transforms Cohen’s song of remembrance into a dialogue between two lovers. Or is it both sides of desire – the chase and the surrender – expressed by one person at the same time? Or is it a reminder that both masculine and feminine are sometimes equally expressed in a single person, like Ndegeocello herself? In any case, this unsettling ambiguity of meaning intertwined with sonic beauty is the reason for Me’Shell’s devoted following, and it is still here.
The rest of the album is comprised of lovely and haunting – but not shocking – songs about love and loss, and the sound is more indie-pop/alt-country than neo-soul. Stand-out tracks include “Feeling for the Wall”, “Dead End”, and “Dirty World”, an anti-consumerist anthem that seems almost like a digression on the album, but is thoroughly satisfying as a single.
So, yes, this is a grown-up album. But it’s not dinner-party grown-up. It’s more like a dark, rainy night at home, waiting for an old lover who may or may not come by. Forget the plates. Break out the good bourbon.
“Weather” is out November 8, 2011.
Review by Lara K. Listen to The Lines and the Leaves. Thursdays at 2pm on KSSU.