Apple Music 100 Best Albums

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The heart of the ’90s neo-soul movement and a gumbo of Black innovation.

When D’Angelo released his masterpiece Voodoo at the turn of the century (and five years after his debut, Brown Sugar), it was immediately clear he’d avoided the dreaded sophomore slump to evolve into a musician as concerned with honoring the past as he was with following his artistic impulses. At the time, the neo-soul movement was an alternative to the flashier edge of ’90s hip-hop and R&B, and Voodoo was its apex: a gumbo of Black innovation—blues, jazz, soul, funk, gospel even—peppered by a full spectrum of humanity, from despair to ecstasy.

The grooves contained within the album are deep enough to swallow you, even and especially when they head past the six-minute mark. Take the most recognizable single, “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” and how its deliberate pace is akin to seduction, or the cover of Roberta Flack’s “Feel Like Makin’ Love”: Each one feels communal, as the instruments do as much heavy lifting as D’Angelo’s electrifying falsetto. If Brown Sugar was a controlled burn, then Voodoo is a wildfire of experimentation, balancing loose improvisation with the precision of a well-rehearsed genius.

“There’s an ease in the production, in the arrangements, in the playing. It feels like nothing is pushed or forced. There’s just a grace in it all that I love.”

Sara Bareilles