D’aily 10/20/21: Back To the Future (Part I)

I’ll apologize in advance for what is likely to be a brief post tonight. I spent most of my night smiling ear to ear while my beloved Milwaukee Bucks received their 2021 NBA Championship rings, raised their banner, then proceeded to beat the pants off of the supposed champion favorite Brooklyn Nets. It’s been a wonderful night and a glorious year to be a Bucks fan. Now, for the subject at hand…

I debated while I compiled my list of D’Angelo tracks whether or not I should treat “Back To the Future (Part I)” and “Back To the Future (Part II)” as one track. It didn’t take me long to determine that they are two unique tracks and deserve to be treated as such. My next concern was that the D’aily Song Randomizer choose Part I first. That happened for me last night. Everything is working out tonight.

Back To the Future was released in 1985 and was directed by Robert Zemeckis. It stars Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, a high school slacker who spends his free time with scientist/inventor, Emmett “Doc” Brown. Sorry. I had to reference the movie as an excuse to encourage you to click this link and watch John Mulaney describing the Back To the Future writers trying to sell their concept to a movie studio. One of my favorite standup bits of all time.

“Back To the Future (Part I)” is the sixth track from D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s 2014 album Black Messiah. Lyrics and music written by D’Angelo. I swear that’s correct today ; ) “Back To the Future (Part I)” is a significant song in D’Angelo lore because it’s about as personal as he gets. As much as people romanticize the mysterious lore of Prince, I’ve always felt like Prince let you get to know him, even if it was exactly what he wanted you to know. I have a shelf full of books about Prince. With over 40 years in the limelight and an endless parade of former bandmates willing to talk about him, there’s little about Prince I feel like I don’t know. I don’t think any of us really know D’Angelo. D does very little press. He surprise released Black Messiah on a Monday with no kind of promotion whatsoever outside of an SNL performance six weeks later. Not a single music video to accompany any of the songs on YouTube. When D’Angelo was nominated for several Grammys in 2016 we had the strange visual of The Vanguard being present to accept his awards while he stayed home.

He writes about personal topics like love and spirituality often, but it doesn’t typically feel as personal as it does in “Back To the Future (Part I).” So many relatable lyrics about the passing of time on this track. The chorus of, “I just wanna go back baby, back to the way it was. I used to get real high, but now I’m just gettin’ a buzz,” is something every single person of a certain age can relate to. It seems extra poignant coming from D’Angelo since I feel I grew up with him. We’re nearly the same age. He’s about two years older than I am. D’s music has been a significant part of my life since I was 19. I feel what he’s singing here. When he sings, “so if you’re wondering about the shape I’m in I hope it ain’t my abdomen you’re referring to,” I can also relate. However, I know that line takes on heavy significance for D’Angelo of all people, and I can truly say that when I wonder what kind of shape he’s in it has nothing to do with his abdomen. I’m just happy D’Angelo is part of my life and I feel lucky to be here to enjoy the beautiful music he’s given us.

The song “Back To the Future (Part I)” is not the thrill ride that the movie is. It’s a melancholy, wistful track coming from someone coming to grips with the fact that he’s not as young as he used to be. It’s not going to make anyone’s party playlist like “Lady” or “Left and Right” and it’s certainly not sexy like “Untitled” or “Really Love.” It’s a brief, lovely peek inside the brain of an enigma whose life is “traveling at the speed of light.” There aren’t many D’Angelo songs like it.

That’s it for me today. Thursday’s song is going to be more of the same. Week five of the D’aily is bringing the heavy topics. More knowledge from D’Angelo coming tomorrow. Enjoy your Wednesday, and oh yeah…#bucksin6.

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