New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh
When Erykah Badu's fifth album, New Amerykah, Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh, dropped in 2010, it was widely held up as a complementary but philosophical opposite to its charged predecessor: Where Part 1 was discordant and militant, this felt harmonious and beatific—a return, by some standards, to the neo-soul markers that defined her rise. But for Badu, love and the body have always been political. Her video for the lead single, "Window Seat"—which depicts the normally covered singer walking down a Dallas street, shedding her clothes until she's fully nude and then being gunned down—was intended to be a meditation on the woes of groupthink, character assassination, and the freedom of losing those things which weigh us down. The reception was mixed, but the attempt is a glimpse into how Badu has always used the emotional and the carnal as vehicles for the expression of power and liberation. In her hands, love and sex are both the question and the answer—her chains and her freedom. New Amerykah, Pt. 2 plays on the theme—she places heartfelt declarations like the buttery "Love" next to unbothered dismissals like "You Loving Me (Session)" and the funky "Fall In Love (Your Funeral)"—without sacrificing her playfulness or a sense that the grooves come first. By the time the deliciously indulgent 10-minute closing track "Out My Mind, Just In Time" arrives, she might as well just be showing off in the best way. It's an album that begs you to lose yourself in it, as you might a relationship or a warm embrace from Badu herself.