Album debuts from recording artists are always an intriguing way to collect the first, insightful look into their career. For D’Angelo, Brown Sugar is an incredibly smooth first release that is actually surprising. It holds this continuous flow of grace that few artists can even touch upon in a whole career, with D’Angelo; The work speaks for itself and holds smooth RnB to the core.
With the opening self-titled track “Brown Sugar”, D’Angelo is a creative conductor that puts the iconic instrumental of cheerful carousel rides and the classic 90’s styled boom-bap bass and snare. It is reflective of the times for the large leather jacket that D’Angelo sports on the cover art is cozy and seems to match the musical style that he produces as well. With the gentle touches of “I want some of your brown sugar” as the chorus of the track, D’Angelo uses these key progressions that overcome the listener in an embracing fashion. Rather than becoming a repetitive conglomerate, Brown Sugar is actually a welcoming piece that takes the relaxed form into a near hour long journey.
Following with “Alright” and “Jonz In My Bonz”, the bass is going to be the main instrument moving the train along on the neo-soul adventure. “Alright” features one of the more progressive musical arrangements with these bass lines that are similar to a Thundercat style where the bass becomes a victim to the performer. It is used in such a way that still feels smooth, but is actually crafty and pushes to the front of the foreground. While the angelic vocals of D’Angelo stay the primary center of attention, the background ensembles are what push him to the height of what embodies vocal purity.
It is similar with the following “Jonz In My Bonz” that takes on a more hip-hop approach of an instrumental that could be rhymed over rather than sung, but D’Angelo works his magic voice to create something everlasting. He is smooth like silk and as approachable as open arms grasp the listener and move the head about in a bouncing way. “All my natural life I’ve been waiting, I’ve been holding on to everything that belongs to me… What I wouldn’t give to be next to the things that were meant for me” D’Angelo explains through this filtered vocal performance as he holds this muffled effect over his voice. The new style mixes the action up slightly and creates these divergent styles over the course of Brown Sugar.
Even to the final moments of the record, D’Angelo is a powerhouse and workhorse of design that can manipulate the most beautiful moments of music in one single experience. Unafraid to create, D’Angelo molds Brown Sugar into its own playing field that is recognized even nearly 25-years later for its craftsmanship and ability to create love from sound.