D’Angelo has become the latest musical auteur to release a long-awaited album with no promotion aside from the occasional, speculative update. The soul singer quietly dropped his third studio album and his first album in 14 years, Black Messiah, on iTunes and Spotify at midnight.
Buzz around the release began Thursday, after a mysterious teaser video featuring the album title appeared on YouTube. Black Messiah was then officially unveiled at a listening party in New York Sunday, culminating with the release of a dozen new D’Angelo songs at midnight. Among the new tunes is lead single “Sugah Daddy,” a song D’Angelo has been playing live since February 2012, back when the album’s working title was James River.
Black Messiah is the follow-up to 2000’s highly acclaimed sophomore release Voodoo, the album that brought D’Angelo a new level of success—and scrutiny—thanks in large part to the video for “Untitled (How Does It Feel)”, in which he serenaded the viewer, naked, chiseled, and glistening:
By most accounts, the “Untitled” video was the biggest catalyst in the 14-year hiatus that followed Voodoo, with D’Angelo feeling intense pressure to be a sex symbol rather than simply a musician. Those anxieties reportedly led to D’Angelo’s alleged substance abuse, and the behavior that landed him unfortunate headlines unrelated to his music. With all this in mind, it comes as no surprise that Messiah is credited to D’Angelo and the Vanguard, drawing some of the attention away from a singer still trying to adjust to the spotlight.
While its abrupt release is likely to draw comparisons to Beyonce and U2, Messiah most resembles the release of MBV, the My Bloody Valentine album that appeared suddenly 22 years after the release of an album so highly acclaimed it seemed impossible to match, let alone top. And like MBV, Messiah’s sound picks up right where Voodoo left off, calming fears that D’Angelo would be musically unrecognizable.