>>> Esperanza Spalding

Emily's D+Evolution


It’s tempting to read Esperanza Spalding’s Emily as another alter ego in a long line of music’s famous second selves – from Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust to Beyoncé’s Sasha Fierce. But the persona she introduces on her fifth full-length does more than allow the Berklee-trained double bassist to chart unfamiliar musical territory and inhabit a pointedly different identity. Or maybe it does less. In interviews, Spalding has said the amorphous Emily is partly inspired by her childhood curiosity. (Friends and family called Spalding Emily, her middle name.) So, in many ways, the artist is devolving.

The title (pronounced d plus evolution) refers to the push/pull of evolution and devolution, which Spalding expresses musically and thematically. Yes, she has switched primarily to electric bass and, yes, you will find more funk and rock here than intricate, emotive jazz compositions. Depending on where you stand on your favourite artist dramatically switching styles, you will view this as progress or backsliding.

That, too, seems to be a part of the album’s heady concept: it’s so uninhibited that it seems Spalding doesn’t care what you think. Lyrically, she even questions how you came to think in the way you do. Religion in Earth To Heaven, academia in Ebony And Ivy and gender in Farewell Dolly are all put under the microscope. In reverting to a younger self, Spalding seems to be asking whether we weren’t more advanced before society handed us an idea of ourselves.

In this current moment, when the us vs them of identity politics is at a sharp pitch, it’s an enlightened view for an artist to put forth.

Top track: Elevate Or Operate

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