By Andres Marin
A month ago, Esperanza Spalding was captivating the world at the 2012 Academy Awards. She beautifully sang “What a Wonderful World” in memory of Whitney Houston and other departed celebrities. Last Tuesday, the afro-haired bassist and singer threw her new album Radio Music Society out into the streets, under the Heads Up International label. If some were still skeptical about Esperanza taking home the Grammy Award in 2011 for Best New Artist over favorites such as Justin Bieber and Drake, here is a dose of reaffirmation and a landmark of reinvention.
The album debut was accompanied by the video clip for “Radio Song.” This lead track perfectly explains Spalding’s twist and vision; by parodying the average radio listeners and how they sing-a-long “even though you never heard it.” While adventuring into the pop music realm, we still hear those traces of jazz and fusion that remain from her awarded 2010 album Chamber Music Society.
“Cinnamon Tree” immerses us into a soothing strings introduction and kick-starts the eclectic journey through R&B, hip-hop, jazz and pop music. The album, loaded with lyrical content, intends to return some reflectiveness to the mainstream. As an example “Black Gold,” the first single, is addressed mainly to young boys and touches on the African American heritage before the slavery.
Radio Music Society includes a wide array of collaborations, from student big bands to legendary drummers such as Jack DeJohnette, and features production by Q-Tip on a couple tracks.
For most, Spalding just appeared on the radar after her Grammy, but the 27-year-old has been busy working for a while. She was asked to play at the Nobel Prize awards in 2009, by recipient Barack Obama. She also recorded on this year’s Grammy-winning album The Mosaic Project by Terri Lyne Carrington.
Few artists have the capacity to grasp so many musical styles and she certainly intends to take it to the next level. Spalding confessed that nothing has really changed for her after receiving the Grammy and it seems like she will just stay ready to shock the world again whenever the opportunity arises.