D'Angelo Stuns SNL With a Powerful 'Charade'

D'Angelo Stuns SNL With a Powerful 'Charade'

Rarely does Saturday Night Live serve as an international platform for a musician to make a statement, but D'Angelo changed all of that the second he showed up.

Black Messiah, D'Angelo's first record since 2000's career-defining Voodoo, was rushed into a late-2014 release (after nearly a decade of delay) following the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The album was an immediate, incendiary hit with critics, many of whom had already published their Best of 2014 lists. (Black Messiah also topped the Voice's 2014 Pazz & Jop critics' poll, published in January.) D'Angelo was clearly missed, and while passionate displays of bass-led affection have defined the standard of his performances, his SNL set tapped into something direct, divine, and heartbreakingly poignant as the first hour of Black History Month came to a close. Most artists have an album to hype or a television program or movie to promote when they're booked on SNL, but D'Angelo appears less interested in capitalizing on his resurgent popularity than in getting out the message of Black Messiah.

First up: "Really Love," a smooth and sensual pick that serves up aural bedroom eyes via strings and Spanish guitar. The Vanguard, the band D'Angelo's tapped for Black Messiah and its inevitable touring efforts, including a February 7 show at the Apollo, couldn't strike a bad note if they tried, with backing vocalist and co-writer Kendra Foster providing the perfect foil to D'Angelo's sleek falsetto. The last ten seconds delivered one of the most exquisite dynamic breakdowns that stage has ever seen, the band so tight and in tune with one another that their ease from loud to soft could've easily been mistaken for a sound guy accidentally leaning on the volume knob. That's not the sound guy turning down D'Angelo and the Vanguard; that's D'Angelo and the Vanguard schooling us in musicality in a way we've rarely seen on late-night television.

Lovely as "Really Love" was, "Charade" is the epic performance that viewers will refer to after SNL's 40th season comes to a close. The wardrobe change was enough to get people to pay attention: D'Angelo wore his hood up, there was a chalk outline of a body on the floor at his feet, and the Vanguard band wore "I CAN'T BREATHE" and "BLACK LIVES MATTER" T-shirts. They integrated the "hands up, don't shoot" protest motions into their dancing. These gestures formed an undeniably moving statement of solidarity with Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and other victims of violence whose deaths have brought race relations back out of the shadows.

The searing solos and resonating chorus of "Charade" worked into a meticulously crafted frenzy, but D'Angelo's belt of the chorus — "All we wanted was a chance to talk/'Stead we've only got outlined in chalk" — is the lasting sentiment here. The raised fists at the end and the strong, somber mood following the final notes of "Charade" packed just the heavy punch it deserved. This is how you maximize the platform you've been given for a cause you're passionate about. This is how you get people to pay attention when you're slotted between lighthearted sketches filled with Super Bowl jokes. And this is how you get the message across when you're about to embark on a year of touring behind your latest opus.

As for the internet, nearly everyone had something to say about D'Angelo's Puss N' Boots/Darkwing Duck ensemble. This is why we can't have nice things, people.

In short, "naaaailed it."

Thx bb we know.

Nick Carter was feeling it.

As was Mary Lambert.

Nahhhht the same.

Same?

But really though we'd be OK with this.

And now for the outfit commentary: First of all, where's the dude from the Voodoo cover?

EXCEPT HE'S GOT AN AX INSTEAD OF A SWORD GET IT

The poetry of the poncho is apparently a thing.

...OK we see it.

And this too.

Your logic is not sound because we're pretty sure watching D'Angelo read the dictionary would still be scintillating.

And now for the Super Bowl campaigns: PLENTY want Perry bumped from the halftime show in favor of Black Messiah.

We review every live musical performance on Saturday Night Live every Sunday.



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