Album Review: India Arie, Worthy

worthy

India.Arie

Worthy (released February 15, 2019)

It’s pretty appropriate that I’m listening to India.Arie’s new LP, Worthy, on Valentine’s Day.

When you think about it, India has spent the better part of 20 years teaching us how to love – from the beauty of our brown skin down to the fire and desire of unmitigated passion.

And lord knows if you watch your social media feeds for more than 30 seconds, you’ll quickly realize that our world is in desperate need of love. That’s the prevailing message of Worthy, India’s seventh studio album and her first solo LP since Songversation in 2013.

The world seems to be a much darker place since 2013, so, true to form, India uses her platform to inspire. Current single “What If” provides a powerful look into our history: “What if Martin didn’t stand up/What if Rosa didn’t sit down/What if Malcolm didn’t man up/Where would we be now? … We can change the world with our love.”

It’s more than a timely Black History Month lesson. Her words are part education, part affirmation and all part of India’s mission to inspire.

The politics of “Rollercoaster” hit even closer to home, with India wearily wondering why “every time I turn on the news, I can’t seem to tell a lie from the truth.” She’s frustrated with a world that ignores communities under siege but spends all their energy demonizing men like Colin Kaepernick, warning that “Keeping Up With the Kardashians is falling behind.”

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Y’all try this tea, it’s delicious today.

“Coulda Shoulda Woulda” gives us an even deeper dive, with India not only silencing trolls and defending her right to self-expression, but reminding the world that “I’ve BEEN Black Girl Magic, 20 years I’ve been at it/I’m over you, I got nothing to prove.” It’s a reminder that she’s been ’bout that brown skin long before it was trendy.

She ain’t new to this. It’s the same dose of realism that she’s been giving us for decades.

Longtime fans know that India’s always been at her best when delivering that acoustic soul. She doesn’t deviate from the script on Worthy. “In Good Trouble” and “Crazy” are both standouts, with her vocals delicately floating along the track on the latter. But she’s also willing to explore new avenues – “That Magic” lives up to its name with enchanting production, making it one of her best songs in years and earning placement on our list of Best R&B songs of 2018.

One of India’s biggest criticisms over the years is that her music is too mellow. That’s not the case for the majority of the tracks here, with only “We Are” feeling slightly repetitive. But it’s certainly no slight to India’s vocal talent – both “Prayer for Humanity” and the soaring “Saved Space” feel like the type of tracks made for award show consideration.

Worthy proves that even a brief layoff hasn’t slowed India’s step, giving fans that same dose of poignant commentary and musical intimacy that built her brand. The music is as timely – and necessary – as ever.

In a world where love feels like an afterthought, India’s still here to remind listeners that they’re, well, worthy.

Best tracks: “That Magic,” “What If,” “Crazy”

4 stars out of 5

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