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First Born Second… Second Still-Born

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Bilal: Something To Hold On To, Gotsta Be Cool and Lord Don’t Let It

Taken from the as-yet-unreleased album Love For Sale (2006)

I tend to take it as a positive signal when an audience seems a bit perplexed by the performer they’ve come to watch. At the very least, I don’t think it’s a necessarily bad thing. Sure, it might indicate a musician out of step with his fanbase, or for that matter someone simply untalented, but Bilal is neither of these. He’s just on another level.

My friend said to me as we were leaving the show last Friday, “Dude looked like he was freaking the peyote train.” And he did–look like it, I mean. He had a certain transcendental air about him. (His stage presence felt more Jim Morrison than what one might figure the cool “neo-soul” crooner type.) But I got the sense watching him that all the manifestations of his esoteric style–dress, demeanor and vocal execution–were the very ways that made his music impactful. And different. And hard for some of the crowd to get avidly behind, mainly ’cause they were just a little confused.

But one thing’s sure: dude’s killing it. And he’s doing it his way.

There is nothing trite or re-hashed about the way Bilal executes his songs. Inimitable structuring (courtesy of high caliber training in jazz and opera), haunting falsetto vocals, and a mean idea of a backing band (SA-RA suckas!), make for an artist that, even if he can’t get the crowd frenzy of a swooning D’Angelo, delivers on the hope of a future for soul music.

These songs were taken off an album that was never saw a proper release but is widely available for download on the internet. I’ve been fiending this ish since the day I first laid ears on it. Get hip.