Meshell Ndegeocello brings alive old and new songs

Meshell NdegeocelloOn May 30, I was privileged to attend an intimate performance and “All Things Considered” interview with Meshell Ndegeocello at the legendary Village Studios in Los Angeles. The event was organized to launch her new album, Comet, Come to Me, but she played songs from each of her previous albums—except Cookie, The Anthropological Mixtape, for which she said she needed to be in another mental space to deal with. (Cookie came at the end of her relationship with Maverick, with contentious demands from the label such as trying to select producers by opening up Billboard to see who had the latest hits. However, she teased that a song might make its way into a forthcoming concert.) It was a real treat for fans to hear songs from the early albums: “Dred Loc,” “Outside Your Door,” “I’m Diggin’ You,” “Who Is He and What Is He to You,” and “Ecclesiastes: Free My Mind.” I was so overcome I felt tears well up just hearing these songs brought back to life.

Meshell doesn’t let herself be boxed in one genre, as the concert reminded us. She joked about two albums that confused many listeners: Bitter and The World Has Made Me the Man of My Dreams. Both were leaps far outside of the expected, artistic risks that are filled with amazing music. The new songs draw on some of her earlier influences, such as the reggae rhythms that dominated Comfort Woman. There’s also a little touch of blues that feels like Bonnie Raitt at times. She’s always been a superb reinterpreter of other people’s music (the word “remake” doesn’t do her justice), and Comet includes a mind-bending version of Whodini’s “Friends” which was even more impressive live.

Following the concert, NPR’s Arun Rath interviewed Meshell and took questions from the audience (listen to the interview). She gave a thoughtful response to a question about changes in the music industry and listeners’ habits, explaining the importance of not being overly negative and keeping a non-judgmental attitude. One thing she finds challenging is engaging her fans through social media, as she tends to be a private, quiet person. She expressed surprise that people were actually interested in buying tickets and turning out for the event—she clearly doesn’t appreciate what an artistic treasure she is. She challenges us and our preconceptions. The more I listen to Comet, the more I’m drawn in to its sonic sensibilities, those that aren’t apparent in just one superficial listening, not quite like anything else yet unmistakably Meshell.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.