Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh

Categories: Review Roundup
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​Today marks the arrival of Erykah Badu's second part of her New Amerykah series, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh. Gone are the political overtones of Part One, replaced with a lighter, sweeter side of Badu, featuring songs about relationships and love.

Part Two also employs a more analog sound in contrast to Part One's digital overtones. What emerges is an earnest and heartfelt album that reminds listeners of why they fell in love with Badu in the first place.

What the critics are saying:

BBC Music: "Return of the Ankh isn't, as some have mistakenly surmised, a return to the ersatz jazz of her 1997 debut, Baduizm. There are nods throughout to her back-catalogue: Gone Baby, Don't Be Long quotes the "I know you got to get your hustle on" hook from Baduizm's Otherside of the Game; closer Out My Mind, Just in Time is a 10-minute epic in three movements, like Green Eyes, which closed 2000's Mama's Gun. But while, stylistically, the album favours the deft, the dulcet, and the down-tempo, its soulful, jazzy upholstery still harbours a powerful emotional bite."

Tiny Mix Tapes: "Despite its cogent emotional articulation, Return of the Ankh's instrumentation is remarkably stoned and inscrutable. "Umm Hmm," co-produced by Badu and Madlib, is to R&B what Ariel Pink is to AOR Rock, which is to say that what appears to be an accessible pop melody is filtered through a faintly-received AM-radio haze until rendered unrecognizable. Badu makes these unexpected artistic decisions almost constantly, but rather than fostering a distance between her and her audience, these odd choices turn the album into a virgin landscape begging to be explored."

New York Times: "The album is devoted to the ways Ms. Badu can toy with time, making each track hover as long as she pleases. The finale, "Out My Mind, Just in Time," comes down to earth as it begins, with Ms. Badu singing to Gershwin piano chords in her Billie Holiday voice, though she's still herself: "I'd pray for you/crochet for you." Then she floats off again, with her voice climbing above a woozy, hesitating, disorienting loop as the singer resolves to finally break away from someone -- or some drug -- and "take my phoenix flight." The song and the album present love as a limbo that just goes on and on, and they don't always reward the necessary patience."

A.V. Club: "Badu's albums are broad canvases that require endless detail to convey a variety of emotion. So when 2008's New Amerykah Part One: 4th World War came out, not only was its kaleidoscopic funk and unhinged creativity a thrill in itself, it made people wonder what she could possibly follow it up with. New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh is more than up to the task, and as many expected, it goes in the opposite direction--inwardly directed where Part One interrogated the world, softer sounding rather than jagged and near-random, more acoustic and less processed."

New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh is out now via Motown.


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