I just spent way too much time perusing the results of the Google search “Best D’Angelo songs.” Not necessarily looking to validate my opinion that “The Line” is the worst track from D’Angelo’s 2000 album Voodoo. More the opposite. I see “The Line” on several lists of D’Angelo’s best songs and I want to know why. What am I missing?
Let’s start with this disclaimer: I don’t dislike “The Line.” I’m simply stating that it’s my least favorite song on what I consider to be the best album of all-time. Something has to be the least favorite on any list and this song just happens to be it. If you played 50 random songs I’d almost certainly put it in the top five. However, if you play 50 D’Angelo songs I would certainly put it in the bottom five. I think that highly of D’Angelo and his music.
What makes this my least favorite song from Voodoo? Many of the same reasons that “Jonz In My Bonz” is my least favorite song from Brown Sugar. I find it sluggish and monotonous. The bass line and drum beat never change. The lyrics repeat themselves frequently. If you know me or have read any of my past work, you might be thinking, “Wait…aren’t you the guy who loves the 14-minute version of ‘Computer Blue’ and several other much longer Prince songs?” Yes. I am. Do they get monotonous? Not really. Repetitive, sure. Not monotonous. Prince was masterful at – well, a lot of things – but one of those was adding twists to those long tracks to keep you on your toes. In fact, let’s leave Prince alone and come back to D’Angelo. Prince was more prolific, but D has the perfect exhibit A in my argument here.
Check out “Joe Texan.” This was recorded in the late-90s during a Soulquarians recording session at Electric Ladyland. If I’m not mistaken this is D’Angelo on vocals, Pino Palladino on bass, James Poyser on keys, and Questlove on drums. “Joe Texan” clocks in at just over seven minutes. Most of D’Angelo’s vocals are either mumbling or enthusiastic interjections. They follow the same pattern for most of the song. You could certainly argue that this song is monotonous or at least repetitive. Listen closer. They’re constantly pushing the tempo up. Pino is tweaking the bass line. Questlove is always trying different fills and patterns. When you’ve finished start the song over again. You won’t even recognize the beginning. It evolves without you even realizing. That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t get that feeling with “The Line.” Same drums. Same bass. D’Angelo singing “I’m gon’ put my finger on the trigger. I’m gon’ pull it. We gon’ see what the deal is,” is compelling, but it’s repeated frequently. The song starts and finishes in the same place and doesn’t do much to keep my interest.
I’m being picky. “The Line” is an excellent, laid back song and some of D’Angelo’s more compelling songwriting. It just doesn’t hit me like other tracks from Voodoo. I have nothing more to say about it, so we’re gonna call it a day. Take a listen and let me know what you think. Fill me in on what I’m missing, and if that’s not your least favorite song from Voodoo, I want to know what is and why. Let’s move on. Unfortunately, we’re moving on from a song that I said was in my bottom five to the song that is firmly planted in 49th place out of 49 songs on my list. I know I said from the start that I’m not ranking these songs. Probably because there’s no way I can pick a favorite or even a top ten. I do know my least favorite. I’ll just leave that there and we’ll address it briefly tomorrow. Until then, enjoy your Wednesday.