To paraphrase an old Eddie Murphy joke, Goapele is such a beautiful woman, she makes you all ugly in the face when you look at her. But, as the Bay Area songstress exhibits on her second major release, Change It All, she's more than just a pretty face you'd be willing to dump a dead body in a ravine for.
As the title practically gives away, Change It All has Goapele shaking up her game plan, dispensing some social consciousness in a few of her songs. (I wouldn't be surprised if this album were nicknamed The Miseducation of Goapele in some circles.) The fuzzy guitar-enhanced title track, along with "Find a Way" and "If I Knew," gives Goapele the opportunity to serve as a musical social activist, blasting corrupt politicians and urging black people to come together, save their dwindling communities and make a difference. There was a little of that on her last album, Even Closer, but overall that was more a boho-soul, lovey-dovey fest, with soft, scintillating grooves highlighted by Goapele's coquettish yet aggressive vocals. (I still can't get her hook from "Romantic" out of my head: "'Cuz you're so fucking romantic / I can't stand it.")
There's a lot of lovey-dovey stuff on Change too, and it still grabs the ear more than the conscious stuff. The lead-off single, "First Love," is fun and lively, with a light piano melody straight out of a '50s doo-wop number. The on-the-verge-of-breakup track "Different," which features rap verses from the Team mate Clyde Carson, sounds like the kind of Neptunes song you wish they'd make more of these days. And "Battle of the Heart," like most of her songs, tenderly hits you with bruised but vulnerable bluesiness.
While the album is as insightful as it is intimate, one has to wonder if Goapele threw more "relevant" material onto Change just to show she isn't coasting on her intoxicating, drop-dead-gorgeous looks. (In case you haven't figured it out yet, I think she's, as Pat O'Brien would drunkenly say, fuckin' hot!) If Goapele actually injected political and social commentary into her music because, well, no one else in R&B is doing it, then she should be commended for being bold and taking a chance. But if she did it to show she's more than a light-skinned dime piece, then she needn't have bothered going all Charlize Theron on us.
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