When you win a Grammy and a resounding response is, “WHO,” you want to make sure that never happens again. With that in mind, Esperanza Spalding’s new album Radio Music Society is widely “mainstream jazz” so that it appeals to more than just jazz fans. The result? An album where the only real theme is, “I want them all to love me.” I don’t know that she can reach the pop world and this album certainly won’t do it but if you’re an R&B fan, you’ll definitely want to give this a listen.
Esperanza starts off with “Radio Song” which basically addresses those who don’t know who she is by basically saying, “Even though you never heard it, you keep singing along…this song.” It is quite uptempo and serves perfectly as an introduction to what most of the album will sound like. Here’s the thing about her voice: I think it is fairly strong but because she’s trying something new, it often sounds a little like…a Broadway singer. Most Broadway singers are good singers but I’m sure that isn’t the intent with her voice. As we go on, there are songs like “Cinnamon Tree,” “Hold On” and “Smile Like That” which offer a good and bad look at love. Then there’s “Land of the Free” and “Endangered Species” (which features vocal beast Lalah Hathaway) that tackle social issues. She even covered Michael Jackson’s “Can’t Help It” which quite frankly, people will hate or love – I guarantee there won’t be an in-between with that one.
Without a doubt, my absolute favorite track is “Crowned & Kissed.” Yes, it is a love song (though many lines in the song could be references to a Higher Power) but it isn’t even about that; the horn section epitomizes musicianship to me. They take the song to another level. In fact, if you find that you can’t get into Esperanza the artist (and I strongly encourage everyone to listen to her previous albums), just listen to the accompanying music. If that doesn’t make you sway, then maybe you just haven’t learned to fully appreciate music just yet.
Esperanza Spalding’s Radio Music Society is in stores on March 20th. Pick it up and add a little something more to your collection!