R&B’s Chinese Democracy is almost here. Again. D’Angelo’s long-in-the-works follow-up to 2000’s recently reissued neo-soul landmark Voodoo is “99 percent … done,” ?uestlove told Billboard. The Roots drummer, who played drums on Voodoo and has returned to the kits for D’Angelo’s third album, said the album will probably be wrapped up by February, allowing for a possible 2013 release.
Voodoo still sounds exceptional, and its expressive, jazz-infused sense of freedom echoes clearly in the uninhibited work of current Grammy nominees Frank Ocean, Miguel, and other convention-bucking R&B artists. But it might be wise to temper any enthusiasm until the record-label suits announce an official release date. Did he say, “99 percent”? Unfortunately, way back in December 2011, ?uestlove told Pitchfork, “The album is pretty much 97 percent done.” At this rate, Guns N’ Roses’ sequel to Chinese Democracy might actually come first.
Okay, but more importantly, will D’Angelo’s next album be any good? According to ?uestlove, it will be. Very good. In fact, he compared it to his generation’s version of Sly and the Faily Stone’s classic There’s a Riot Goin’ On. “It’s potent. It’s funky. It’s an extremely hard pill to swallow,” ” ?uestlove told Billboard. “It’s going to take you about 10 years to digest this record. Totally brilliant.”
It’ll be not only difficult, but also immediate, ?uestlove continued. “Just the way this society works with music… being able to judge if something is a classic after the first listen, you can do that after thirty seconds on this,” he’s quoted as saying. “And the fact that we started this record in 2004, and it still sounds like it came out five years from now, it is a testament to the timelessness of it.”
Adding to hopes, a lot has happened for D’Angelo since ?uestlove first said the record was almost finished. He played his first live shows since 2000, starting in Europe and then making an unannounced appearance with ?uestlove at Bonnaroo. And he performed at the BET Awards.
If and when D’Angelo finishes his album, and if it’s as great as ?uestlove says it is, he’ll almost definitely grace even bigger award stages. But after 13 years, it’s probably healthiest to keep our expectations in check. That’s as good a reason as any for the Tom Jones photo at the top of this post, because, seriously, WTF?