Album: Erykah Badu, New Amerykah Part One (Universal/Motown)

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The Independent Culture

Attempting to depict the social ravages and alienation of black America by sounding ravaged and alienated oneself is a risky method, and the confessional sketches and doodles that make up over half of this album confirm Erykah Badu as the Syd Barrett of what used to be called Nu Classic Soul. And yet on the few occasions ("Me", "Telephone", a final "secret" track) when there's a real tune for the production touches of Madlib etc to play with, she still sounds way ahead of the game. But the threatened trilogy is the real worry: why not just one half-decent album?

Download this: 'Telephone': ODB's death recalled with yearning soul