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'New Amerykah, Part Two: Return of the Ankh,' Erykah Badu 

Five albums in, Badu is still playing and experimenting.

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Erykah Badu is an island — thankfully. The longtime R&B artist seems completely isolated from trends, fads and unnecessary technologies on her latest record, New Amerykah, Part Two. For an album that’s peaking on top 10 lists worldwide, it’s free of flimsy auto-tune and simple-minded, poppy love songs. Unlike the first New Amerykah — an album stocked with social commentary, songs about poverty and violence — this record is an offering to Badu’s heart, expressing both her idealistic, loving, emotional side and her dejected, better-not-love-me side.  Perhaps due to her brassy, vintage-soul voice, Badu handles what could be cheesy subject matter in a classy way.

She hardly shies from singing songs about heartbreak, but she also lays it on thick with the improv-sounding “Love.” Five albums in, Badu is still playing and experimenting. Perhaps my favorite part of this record is the blooper “You Loving Me” and the atmosphere-building “Incense” — tracks that build the mood of the record but also showcase Badu as a perfectly imperfect artist.

DOWNLOAD: “Window Seat”

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