By Kelly Harris, Editor
After hearing a snippet of “The Truth,” the title track from Ledisi’s forthcoming album, the woman next to me at a listening party at Cafe Istanbul shouted: ”I’m pre-ordering mine, now!” Other listeners bobbed their heads and lifted their drinks to other bouncy tracks from the singer’s sixth studio album.
For long-time Ledisi fans, this album is different. Its sound is more upbeat, urban-ish, if you will, and pushes beyond neo-soul to a “more marketable” sound as fan Keyontae Hamilton noted. “She’s evolving. I’m proud of her new look. I’m so excited she’s in New Orleans,” Hamilton said. Ledisi was raised in New Orleans until moving to Oakland, California as a child.
Ledisi says the truth about her new look and sound is that she’s in a different place now. In a gold dress accenting her highlighted locs, she opened up to the audience about waking up to the truth about being in an unhealthy relationship and emotional eating. Instead of traditional exercise classes, she opted for dancing classes with Hip Hop in Heels. The slimmer, happier Ledisi acknowledged backlash from fans who felt she’s become too sexy and commercial. An angry fan on Facebook called her a “stank ho.”
“She’s got everyday issues just like us. She’s singing about stuff we go through. I’m glad she came home. It’s a blessing when your home supports you. I’m definitely going to buy the album.” – Sierra McKinney, New Orleans fan
I confess: I didn’t know what to make of Ledisi’s new sound and look. She’s an 8-time Grammy Award nominee—obviously she was doing something right. I could be called a Ledisi purist. I’ve seen her live several times. I know what her voice can do. She can stand on a stage and sing and I’d be perfectly content. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve yelled: “You betta sang, gurl” from the audience. The new sound made me fear the magic of her voice would be buried in beats in songs not worthy of her voice. Attending the listening party provided a context for understanding the changes. I had to smack my wrist and remind myself that fans have to allow their favorite artists to grow. So, I’m sticking with her and rooting for her success. Even I, a conscious, Christian, poet, loc wearer likes to feel sexy and often spit rhymes around the house like some thug emcee. So why can’t Ledisi explore all her lovely selves? Although the sound is different, the talent and strength of her voice is undeniable and still shines from what we were able to preview.
I asked a group of people in the corner of Café Istanbul which is their favorite Ledisi album. One lady replied, “Pieces of Me.” Another attendee swore, “Lost and Found” was her best. It should be noted, the song “Pieces of Me” was mentioned five times by different people I spoke with.
And then it hit me, many of the people I talked to could only reference her 2011 “Pieces of Me” album. I discovered Ledisi in 2000 with her debut, “SoulSinger,” which I still play faithfully. It occurred to me just how long she’s been working to gain respect and fans in a music industry that leaves little room for brown-skinned women with locs and curves. “It’s hard to lose weight. She’s inspiring. She’s genuine and beautiful. I love her,” said Toni Robeson who was celebrating the New Year with two friends from Fort Worth, Texas.
Ledisi shows me she can take me to church and the club and it doesn’t mean she’s cheapened her craft. Her album, “The Truth” drops March 11th. And to be honest, if we start telling the truth about ourselves and relationships—we’d probably lose a little weight and be more confident too.
Are you a Ledisi fan looking forward to her new album?
Note: Feature Photo for listening party courtesy of SafeHaven Management and Ledisi.com
Ledisi’s “The Truth” is now available!