Katy Perry's mind-blowing Super Bowl halftime show stole most of the weekend's music headlines — and with good reason. But, as great as it was, it was hardly the most important televised musical performance of the weekend. That honor goes to D'Angelo.
The night before Perry hit the stage, neo-soul legend D'Angelo performed his Saturday Night Live debut, playing two songs off his recent Black Messiah. It was an earth-shattering performance not only because it included some near virtuosic musicianship, but also because it made a powerful and incredibly necessary political statement: It was a clear and forceful reminder that Black Lives Matter as a movement is far from over.
He and his band The Vanguard performed a stunning version of his protest song "The Charade" wearing "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breathe" shirts. The stage was marked with a harrowing chalk outline to deepen the song's powerful political critique and to emphasize lyrics about our country's racially motivated police brutality: "All we wanted was a chance to talk / Instead we got outlined in chalk."
This was how D'Angelo is meant to be heard. "The Charade" is the most powerful song on Black Messiah, which dropped by surprise at the end of 2014. D'Angelo apparently rushed it out in order to pin his album's political message to the protests surrounding the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The artist explained his album's title and its revolutionary intentions in a pamphlet accompanying the release. "For me, the title is about all of us. It's about the world. It's about an idea we can all aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah," he wrote, "It's about people rising up in Ferguson and in Egypt and in Occupy Wall Street and in every place where a community has had enough and decides to make change happen. It's not about praising one charismatic leader but celebrating thousands of them."
His band also performed a version of the romantic "Really Love." It didn't have the same political impact as "The Charade," but it gave the audience a taste of Black Messiah's diversity and had a transcendent beauty all the same.
This was an incredibly powerful political statement. "The Charade" is already a forceful exploration of the issues surrounding police brutality, but the entire performance was stirring in a different way. By proudly displaying the movement's "Black Lives Matter" slogan on his group's outfits, D'Angelo showed his leadership. He helped bring our country's most important political issue — which was tremendously visible at the end of 2014 — back to light on a weekend when our attention was drifting ever further away. D'Angelo, though, won't let us forget.
h/t Rolling Stone