12 O'Clock Track: "West Side Girl," the latest curveball from R&B singer Bilal | Bleader

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

12 O'Clock Track: "West Side Girl," the latest curveball from R&B singer Bilal

Posted By on 03.05.13 at 12:00 PM

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

In the beginning of the aughts, R&B singer Bilal was making a name for himself as a member of the creatively fecund musical outfit known as the Soulquarians (which counted D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, Common, J Dilla, and members of the Roots, chiefly ?uestlove, among its members). After a prominent appearance on Common's "The 6th Sense," Bilal dropped his debut album 1st Born Second on Interscope, which featured chart-placing singles such as the Dr. Dre-produced "Fast Lane" and "Soul Sista." It received general acclaim from music critics, and Bilal seemed poised for a successful R&B career, when an all-too-familiar narrative took hold: the singer dropped an ambitious follow-up, the label shelved it, and an artist on the verge of success instead spent most of the decade in label-wrangling hell.

Bilal quietly released Airtight's Revenge on avant-pop label Plug Research in 2010, and though it went relatively under the radar, it remains one of the best R&B albums of the decade thus far. Featuring a number of tracks with asymmetrical arrangements and whirlwind rhythms, the music is as tumultuous and impassioned as the singing and lyrics, which deal with adult-slanted relationship drama, politics, and deep introspection.

The singer recently dropped his follow-up to Airtight's Revenge, A Love Surreal, on eOne. Both longer and more luxurious than its predecessor, Bilal's latest leans on slower tracks with mistier, rose-colored sounds and softer instrumentation. But it is similarly complex, approaching seemingly conventional R&B tracks from unusual angles. Take album opener "West Side Girl": Shafiq Husayn's burbling keyboards and limping percussion anchor a feathery keyboard pattern, while Bilal's singing blurts forth in snatches of miraculously congruent melodies. Channeling Prince, Bilal casually flips lascivious epigrams like "You ain't gotta talk a lick/Body talk a lot of shit" in between mostly empty come-ons. It's a weird piece of R&B from an artist who's consistently challenging the genre's language. The rest of A Love Surreal unfolds in similarly knotty fashion, and after a few listens, it's opening up. I haven't absorbed it fully yet, but I can envision it making sense in time.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Tal Rosenberg

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
Patience and Sarah Theater Wit
October 12
Performing Arts
Not for Sale UrbanTheater Company
September 27

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories