100 Best Albums: No. 57 Released in early 2000, D’Angelo’s landmark Voodoo was the result of years’ worth of scholarship and soul-searching. In the late 1990s, the R&B prodigy began spending time at Jimi Hendrix’s famed Electric Lady Studios in New York City. Working with a collective of innovative jazz, hip-hop, and soul musicians known as the Soulquarians, the singer spent hours studying Black music’s past, while simultaneously paving its future. Numerous friends and guests would drop in along the way, including founding Soulquarians members Questlove, James Poyser, and J Dilla, as well as such artists as Erykah Badu and Bilal. During that time, D’Angelo studied episodes of Soul Train, dug into old performances from legends like Marvin Gaye and James Brown, and—most crucially—created more than 120 hours of music. All of that effort would eventually be whittled down into D’Angelo’s sophomore masterpiece, Voodoo—an album that was far more experimental and free-flowing than his 1995 debut, Brown Sugar, and that felt like a wholesale rejection of “modern” R&B. Tracks like “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” proved that, while flashy R&B tracks were thriving commercially, a slow-burning, seven-minute-long single could possess the power to capture the mainstream for generations to come. It was the standout track on an album that was as daring lyrically as it was sonically, with songs about fatherhood, love, spirituality, and sex. That last topic would, at times, threaten to overshadow Voodoo’s brilliance. The album’s marketing materials, including the music video for “Untitled”—which featured a shirtless, possibly naked D’Angelo—were hyper-consumed by the media, and by fans. The emphasis on D’Angelo’s sex appeal led to his subsequent objectification, disillusionment, and hiatus—in that order (he wouldn’t release another album until 2014’s Black Messiah . Nevertheless, Voodoo remains the apex of the neo-soul movement, cementing the timelessness of one of the genre’s most talent-filled jam sessions in history.

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