D’aily 11/25/21: Prayer

Today I complete the D’aily with the song that I’ve been secretly wishing for since the week I started. If you’ve been reading along you know that I’ve had a list of 49 D’Angelo songs to write about every weekday since late-September. Every day I’d write a post, then randomly select another of the 49 songs to write about the next day. After I got into a groove I became concerned with how I would end it. What would be the ideal song to complete this journey? What if I ended with something like “The Door” or one of the random brief covers from his Live At the Jazz Café, London album? Seems anticlimactic.

After thinking about it briefly I decided that “Prayer” would be an amazing song to finish the blog. What are the odds I’d end on the exact song I wanted? About 1-in-45, since that’s approximately how many songs remained when I began hoping for “Prayer” as the closer. I’ll let you in on a little secret now: The D’aily Song Randomizer stopped being an Excel spreadsheet after only a few days. I found a site called Wheelofnames.com that combined the heartless randomization of the Excel spreadsheet with a rollicking round of Wheel of Fortune. When I hit the midway point five weeks ago it occurred to me that “Prayer” was still in play for the final song. When I got to the final 12 songs a couple weeks ago I started cheering out loud every time I spun the wheel. I was avoiding the “Prayer” piece of the wheel like it was the Bankrupt piece on Wheel. The only time it really came close was the final three a couple days ago when it landed on “When We Get By” but missed “Prayer” by about one pixel. “Prayer” is just a much better way to end the D’aily.

Why, you ask?

Let’s start with the facts: “Prayer” is the eighth song from D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s 2014 album Black Messiah. “Prayer” is what so many of these songs have been all along: written by D’Angelo. Something that’s bothered me throughout this D’aily process is that I haven’t been able to find a definitive breakdown of who specifically played on each Black Messiah track. Brown Sugar was easy because it’s all D’Angelo. Voodoo was slightly more complicated, but the information is in the liner notes. Black Messiah lists album contributors, but doesn’t get into track specifics. I’m curious if everything you hear on “Prayer” is D’Angelo or if others are involved. I can’t find the correct answer so I won’t speculate.

“Prayer” is exactly what the title says it is. It’s a prayer put to music. Specifically a loose version of The Lord’s Prayer. D’Angelo grew up in the church. He learned music in the church. His music, along with Prince’s, are as spiritual as any that I listen to, but “Prayer” takes it to a new level. In many ways I believe it’s a perfect encapsulation of everything I’ve written about for the past 49 days. It’s funky. It’s slightly off kilter. It doesn’t sound exactly like anything you’ve ever heard before. The headphone listening experience is actually jarring. The first time I heard “Prayer” on vinyl in my headphones I thought that something malfunctioned. It’s beautiful. D’Angelo uses his world class falsetto to ask The Lord to deliver him from evil. It’s inspiring. It has moved me to tears on multiple occasions for reasons I don’t understand. On an album full of brilliant music it’s my favorite song. It’s perfect D’Angelo.

If you missed any of the posts from D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s 2014 album Black Messiah, here’s the track list:

  1. Ain’t That Easy
  2. 1,000 Deaths
  3. The Charade
  4. Sugah Daddy
  5. Really Love
  6. Back To the Future (Part I)
  7. Till It’s Done (Tutu)
  8. Prayer
  9. Betray My Heart
  10. The Door
  11. Back To the Future (Part II)
  12. Another Life

When I started writing about Prince every day during quarantine last year two things struck me: 1. He has a lot of songs. 2. There’s already so much Prince content out there. I figured if I could write about D’Angelo every day it might introduce his music to a few people that wouldn’t have otherwise listened. If I got a new fan out there listening to a different D’Angelo song every day or brought a smile to the face of a fellow D’Angelo fan, mission accomplished.

D’Angelo is my favorite artist and he belongs in the conversation with Prince, Stevie, Sly, and the rest of the greats. However, he’s only released three albums in 25 years and he seems to have been in hiding for the past two decades, therefore he hasn’t had the cultural impact the other greats have had. I don’t care about cultural impact. His music speaks for itself. He’s a once in a generation combination of singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. He’s cool, funky, sexy, smooth, spiritual, and badass. There’s not a single weak song in his catalog. There’s not another artist who has been a constant in my rotation since I was 19 years old. Others have come and gone, but my D’Angelo phase is now midway through its third decade. Whenever I’m looking at my Apple Music library or my vinyl collection for more than 10 seconds wondering what I should play next, the answer is still and always will be either Brown Sugar, Voodoo, or Black Messiah. As music journalist Jeff Weiss said, “You could credibly make the arguments that D’Angelo has the best—whether you want to call it R&B or soul or even funk—album of the last three decades.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Of course I hope there’s more D’Angelo in the future, but if not, I’m thankful that he’s already given us enough amazing music to last a lifetime. If I’m lucky enough to live another 40-50 years, you can bet I’ll still be spinning one of my three copies of Voodoo on vinyl and trying to convince anyone within earshot that it’s the greatest album of all time.

This concludes the D’aily. Thank you again to D’Angelo for the music and thanks to you for checking out the blog. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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