Just shy of a week, January 25th marked the 15th year release anniversary of D’Angelo’s classic sophomore album, Voodoo. Saint Heron and some of our special artist friends reflect on the album, celebrating one of music’s greatest masterpieces.
Voodoo is the church in which we all come to worship the religion of soul music. It is the word. It is the temple. It is the law for all lovers of true rhythm and blues. At 15-years-old, Voodoo is the most self-assured, decisive, deep in its roots, and “grown as hell” album in recent musical history I’ve ever experienced. A true testament to the term, timeless. Since its birth, it has always gone hand and hand with reflections of various milestones in my life. I was 13, when I heard “Untitled” and got goosebumps at the first knock of the snare. I couldn’t have been farther from having the answers when he belted “How Does It Feel,” but the deep down gutters of my soul said “Daaaaammmn Goot!”
My son was five when we filmed him trying his best attempt at break dancing to “Devils Pie,” if any song was gonna give him the spirit… that one was sure to. Almost seven years ago, I fell in love with my husband with “Africa” as our soundtrack, each chord of the beginning bells representing the sentiments of our oneness. “Send It On” became the song of the hour at many a Brooklyn house parties, about 15 women spread all around my apartment singing along emotionally in unison.
And alas, one of the greatest memories of my wedding was dancing to “Feel Like Making Love” until the wee hours, eyes closed, the biggest smile on my face. Whatever D’Angelo’s journey back to South Carolina and Virginia encompassed, somehow became my journey too. It delivered me. It spoke for me. It made me feel right around the corner from my ancestors. It help me to understand the woman I wanted to become.
Been coming back to those 78 min and 54 seconds for the past 15 years. Shit was so next level when it came out… I didn’t even know what to think. The video for “Untitled,” Quest Love’s drumming and programming, Pino Palladino… Those songs, that voice! The bar is raised forever. Early 2000s, D’Angelo and Soulquarians was a special time for music. I think all us fans are growing and making records now. Hopefully we can give back some of what we got from that album!
D’Angelo had already changed R&B with his first album. It seemed a bit crazy to imagine that he would reinvent the genre a 2nd time; but he did. Actually he did so even more the second time around, with Voodoo. For me, as a hip hop head, what I loved about Voodoo was the grit, the mud. “Devil’s Pie” was the ultimate, but then again, so were “Send It On” and “The Root,” and so was “Spanish Joint.” Every song struck this magic balance, where it somehow referenced classic soul but still sounded fresh and new, like nothing we had heard before. D’Angelo brought back horns on this album, in a way we hadn’t heard since MJ. But again, he made them dirty. There was so much magic. The swing of the drums, the perfection of the vocal stacks, Pino’s rubbery basslines… It’s amazing to see how many other musicians were influenced by Voodoo. It’s one of those albums that’s like a gift to the world.
Voodoo is as relevant today as it was when it first came out. D’Angelo’s harmonies, instrumentation and arrangements are iconic and timeless. His song structure of mixing classic R&B with the true roots of gospel jam session still resonates today. It is an album you can listen to from start to finish. This is the DNA of black music; all the love, pain, social statements and rawness punctuated by his effortless vocal progression from his funky low register to his sexy falsetto. My favorite song on the album is “Africa” and “Untitled” definitely inspired my song “Rocket.”
DAVE LONGSTRETH (OF DIRTY PROJECTORS)
Voodoo collapses time, it feels eternal. Voodoo is a voice that’s been whispering vines into the margins of medieval manuscripts in some Alexandrian library beyond the barbarous antiquity of the present. It posits an alternate reality where traditionalism and technology aren’t at odds: the palette of the recording is so futuristic and crisp but the playing is so real, so effortlessly true. The grooves are at once taut as an airlock and free as a handful of almonds strewn on a tabletop, and the One always snaps back, elliptical as a portrait of Jupiter’s orbit in a convex mirror. D’Angelo’s voice is insanely elastic, his runs so crispy, his vibrato a light green leaf in the May breeze, and the thrum of him singing with himself is an inexact three-color silkscreen, as if his spirit is constantly leaving his body and then returning to it glossolalia — to testify, to affirm, to explore, to assure.
Voodoo was the first to help me understand “Inspiration – Information.” Learning exactly how to be creative while still conveying your message to your appreciator effectively.”
Voodoo was by far one of the best concept albums in music. From the start of the first interlude, I knew D’Angelo had created his own world and I wanted to be in it. Although I couldn’t understand a lot of the words –and still can’t — it made me fall deeper in love with his melody and his tone. The live musicianship through out was incredible and has definitely influenced me and my production team, Wondaland, to always bring in live instrumentation through our albums. For example the horns, guitar, bass and etc.
His harmonies and background vocals are still some of my favorites to listen to. I loved the way songs like “Devil’s Pie” right into “Left Right” seamless flowed. “Spanish Joint” opened my eyes to how elements and sounds from a different genre could work on the same album and still remain cohesive.
What can I actually say about Voodoo that’s not already been said better? We all know the music changed everything – we’re all aware of the genius that lies behind it, the musical teamwork, the assembling of great minds… I suppose I’d look at Voodoo from a new perspective. What if you write a record that’s just too good? What if you let your manager talk you into doing that video? How, as an artist who was already sensitive to public perception and self-doubt, do you work on a follow up, or even perform your music if the only screams you hear on stage are those yelling at you to ‘take it off!!’. For those with these unearthly voices, these extraordinary talents, and these infrequent bodies, the danger comes in stepping into the light and fulfilling the entirety of everyone’s expectations. How do you ever repeat that?
There was a thinking that without “Untitled,” Voodoo would have never crossed over to the extent it did. In the end, I’d put it out there that “Untitled,” and the aftermath of its video, damaged D’Angelo’s artistic career and our own likelihood of hearing more of his music, than any lack of sales ever could have done. I hope in some parallel universe without television they were blessed with a few more D’Angelo records in the last 15 years. Music sure needed them.
I think every lover of R&B, funk and soul exploded when Voodoo came out. I would just close my eyes — and I still do — and just listen to the those epic guitar strings, textures and lyrics… it just sends chills down my spine. It’s one of those albums that gives you a hard time when trying to name a favorite song. You end up saying, “Oh but, ‘Spanish Joint’ was my jam. Oh yeah and so was ‘Send It On,’ Damn actually I love the whole thing.” I have to mention the legendary, undeniably sexy “Untitled” video and song co-written by another favorite of mine Raphael Saadiq. I don’t know what man didn’t want to reincarnate himself as D’Angelo,and what woman didn’t find herself salivating at this fine brother. Thank you for Voodoo.
PATRICK WIMBERLY (OF CHAIRLIFT)
Voodoo forever changed the way I thought about rhythm sections. To me, I hear total synergy between the groove of the voice and the band. All of the sudden, the voice was not only part of the rhythm section, it was the backbone. It reminds me of James Brown. When you hear a James Brown record, it sounds like he has total control over the band just by the way he’s delivering every line. The way D’Angelo takes cues from the artists that he loved and connected with, then incorporated into his own music to make something truly unique and fresh is inspiring. I can hear the heavy influence of J Dilla in the swing of this record, but it doesn’t sound like a J Dilla record. I will forever be impressed and obsessed with the way they blended programmed grooves with live grooves to create a feel that feels timeless and human.
Voodoo dropped when I was seven-years-old growing up in PG County, Maryland. To this day, it’s one of the most important pieces of work from any DMV artist — including Ellington & Gaye — in my opinion. Over these 15 years, from Voodoo to Black Messiah, what I have enjoyed the most is the endless reciprocation. I still repeatedly change my favorite song because there is always something new to be found in his work that he gifts to us. I was into D’Angelo before I dug Prince, but the day I figured out D sampled “I Wonder U” on “Africa,” I was done for! I’m sure Alan Leeds had some thoughts on that, but the rest is black history, as I tend to say.
STASIA (OF THEESATISTACTION)
I sold my soul to timeless D’Angelo after the Brown Sugar album, but it was Voodoo that set my soul on fire. My go to joint is “One Mo’gin” with the deepest, syrupy most sultry bass line possible he always lures me back. Forever D’Angelo.
I remember the first time I heard Voodoo. As a musician, I would listen with so much intent to understand everything I could about how it grooved. The combination of Pino Palladino and Quest Love destroyed my understanding of how hard I was suppose to lock in as a bass player. Overall, the whole album brought me so much perspective on my instrument. One thing I will say is that I hate what it did to drummers. Everyone wanted to be Quest Love and fell miserably short. I mean seriously. Some of their grooves would sound as if someone stuffed two combat boots in a dryer and put a microphone next to it. But none the less, it caused a generation of us to reach further. It felt nice to know that you could create magic like that in a time when everything is so dependent on electronics. So in closing I say thank you D’Angelo, Quest Love, Pino Palladino and the whole slew of musicians involved in that album. Definitely changed my life and its nice to have you back D.
Voodoo is a classic record that I put on in 2000 and I haven’t stopped playing yet! It’s an important ingredient to the recipe for GREAT MUSIC…TIMELESS….PERFECTION!!!
Happy 15th Birthday Voodoo! We are all better because of you!