If you are a regular reader of my column, you know about my obsession with female singers, especially the kind with the big soulful voices. I've been told it's not unhealthy to obsess about such things. Yet since 2001 I've been obsessing about the release of this week's album. Either that's a good thing or a really bad thing. You decide.
Early in 2001, I saw a video called 'Like A Feather' that featured a gorgeous female creature with ringlets of red hair in a sequined blue dress crawling across a stage with a microphone ( still on the stand ) nestled between her legs. Her voice was bursting with energy and the 16th-notes she clapped sent me into orbit. Her name was Nikka Costa, and my obsession began. Funny thing is, she was already a Platinum star in the rest of the world with two albums under her belt.
By mid-year, her U.S. debut album 'Everybody Got Their Something' was burning up the charts and the airwaves. A pan-genre album, there was everything from funky 70's guitar riffs to slow dramatic ballads backed by orchestral strings. Her voice went from acidic to basic, stretching on each end of the range in an unmistakable way.
She toured. She made television appearances. She hollered her way into the hearts and minds of a lot of people. Then she subsided from the States, leaving most of us craving for more. On May 24th of this year she returned, bringing us her latest album 'Can'tneverdidnothin'' on Virgin Records.
With more face than Gwen, more voice than Janet, more style than Madonna ( yes I did ) , and more talent than most female singers on the scene, Nikka Costa is at the top of her craft. A single listen to 'Can'tneverdidnothin'' will prove it.
It starts with a quintessential Nikka Costa track, 'Till I Get To You,' a recount of all her lovers through the alphabet funked up 70's style. The lyrics are genius, and it's only the first song. The title track 'Can'tneverdidnothin'' comes next and gives a hint to the title. According to Nikka, her mother used to say 'Can't never did nothing, and neither did could.' Essentially saying do your thing 'cause you 'only get out what you put in.'
A deeper track with Nikka on piano, 'I Gotta Know' is a ballad with her sultry low vocals that skyrocket during the climax of the song. Tabla beats start off 'Funkier Than A Mosquito's Tweeter,' a Nina Simone classic. Nikka's take moves it to another level.
Finally, in my spotlight is 'Around The World,' a track that proclaims it's message with as much positive energy as possible. 'Love will be your soldier' says the final hook in stunning harmony, and no matter what else you take from this album, that's the message to remember. 'When ain't nothin' going right, love will be your soldier. When all you can do is cry, love will be your soldier.'
With you in 4/4,