Angelique Kidjo | Mother Nature Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Angelique Kidjo is considered one of the most Powerful Celebrities in Africa. The vocalist is the recipient of the prestigious 2015 Crystal Award given by the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the 2016 Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, and the 2018 German Sustainability Award. Her remarkable voice, stage charisma, and fluency in multiple cultures and languages have won her fans and praise from around the world. Kidjo’s music has a beautiful blend of West African traditions of her childhood in Benin with elements of American R&B, funk, jazz, and influences from Europe and Latin America. Mother Nature is Kidjo’s first album of original music in seven years, following 2019’s Grammy-winning Celia and her 2018 radical reimagining of Talking Heads’ landmark LP Remain In Light. Mother Nature features Yemi Alade, Mr. Eazi, Salif Keita, Burna Boy, Shungudzo, Zeynab, Lionel Loueke, Sampa The Great, Blue Lab Beats, Ghetto Boy, EARTHGANG, and -M-. Producers that worked on the album include Kel P (Burna Boy), James Poyser of The Roots, Vitek, Rexxie, Synematik, Blue Lab Beats, -M-, Brad Thomas Ackley, David Donatien and Dany Synthé. She began writing it in 2019, and it was created over the past year in quarantine.
“Dignity” has Kidjo’s vocalizations over a West African-influenced guitar figure for the introduction. The verse has a rhythmic melody that segues into a vocal harmonized pre-chorus. For the chorus, the vocal layers increase and expand. This makes for a dramatic build. The effects on the vocals at various points have a strong electronica sound. With a form that rises and falls with density and ad-lib vocal fills for the reframe, “Dignity” is a sure hit.
“Omon Oba” illustrates Kidjo’s proclivities for generating diverse moods in the West African tradition. With shifting multipart vocals and guest Zeynab and Lionel Loueke on guitar, the music is eminently accessible. The result is music that encounters a complexity that is organic and will astonish in its complex layers. This gives the music plenty to savor each time you listen to the song. Kidjo has a wide range of guests on the project, and as with “Omon Oba,” each guest brings even more interest and variety to the project. This is a format that works exceptionally well.
Mother Nature has a total of thirteen songs that feature Kidjo’s amazingly diverse sound. In addition, the various guest contributes a diverse sound to the brilliantly compiled songs that mix American R&B, funk, jazz, Hip-Hop, and Electronica with West African music traditions. Filled with melodic intricacy and harmonic sophistication of the many vocal textures that are exceptionally well performed and layered, the singing is fantastic throughout the album. Another fine accomplishment from a living legend without sounding redundant, simply impressive.