The Grammies are the biggest joke in music; a giant masturbatory popularity contest for overpaid, undertalented A&R men to congratulate themselves on finding the latest two-year-long money machine to sucker the MTV generation with. However, even the most retarded of squirrels occasionally stumbles over a nut, so I wasn't surprised when India.Arie got nominated for Best New Artist. (She won't win, of course. Neither will Linkin Park, who I have high hopes for. Alicia Keys might win, but she's in danger of being the 21st century Mariah Carey. Look for either uberbimbette Nelly Furtado or the incomprehensible David Gray to walk away with the Horn O' Doom, thereby guaranteeing their career will tank. Anyone remember Musical Youth?) (Editor's note: Duke wrote this before the Grammies; Alicia Keys did win Best New Artist.)
That said, I finally picked up India.Arie's debut CD, Acoustic Soul, and in truth it's as good as I expected from the singles. Maybe better, in fact. In fact, let's discuss Some Really Cool Things About India.Arie:
1) She has some historical awareness of where she comes from. This CD includes a brilliant tribute to Stevie Wonder ("Wonderful") and a sung tribute to musicians who have influenced her (including such widely varied names as Minnie Riperton, Donnie Hathaway, James Taylor, and Karen Carpenter).
2) She delivers a scathing, yet oddly gentle diatribe about what sort of musician she isn't, which includes the deathless, funny line "As for silicone, I prefer my own, what God gave me's just fine" ("Video").
3) She has a drawn-butter, honey, shiveringly rich voice that's one of the most versatile, supple, and elegant things I've ever heard. Think a female George Benson with a wider range.
4) Screw gangsta rap and other crap; her music is unabashedly African-American, and she's probably a better role model than ninety percent of the artists out there.
5) She's just COOL, dammit.
Plain and simple, this is a great CD. Tracks of especial note include "Brown Skin" (which may be one of the best love songs I've ever heard), "I See God In You" (another love song, believe it or not -- I know this unrepentant Pagan loved it), "Strength, Courage, and Wisdom" (and couldn't we all use some of that, hey?)…oh, hell, they're all good. Go get this CD. Do not waste your time. This is great stuff.
And please, please O Immortal And Deathless Muses, do not let her fall victim to the Best New Artist Curse…