Trey Songz has matured into a sexiness that can’t be disputed.  Songz sang from the heart, throbbing beats and pulsating movements entranced the mostly female audience at the Essence Summer Music Festival. The shirt came off, of course, to reveal a tight rippled, sweaty body in a crisp tee. Songz  teased the crowd with favorite hits and rolled out his new single “Dive In.”

“I’ll just keep my head down… I’m ’bout to dive in, go under just for you.” There were sure to be “Heart Attacks,” after that 30-minute set.

But if a cool down was needed, D’Angelo brought the ice. In a word, his show was disappointing.

D'Angelo in concert at the 2012 Essence Music Festival. Photo: Chris Mitchell.

To be frank, some artists should never play large audiences. These artists may be talented singers or songwriters, but they do not have the performance skill set to mesmerize a venue the size of the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Artists who have been out of the game for quite some time should not make their comeback at an internationally renowned music festival filled with African American music lovers. Also, artists who ignore their fans’ wishes to play that hit song; artists who defy what their stylist wants them to wear; artists who have been gone for more than a decade and are too high-strung to reacquaint the old fans and introduce themselves to the new ones, should not play the Essence Music Festival.

In other words, fans have charged, overwhelmingly, that D’Angelo, should not have performed at the Essence Music Festival. Your fans are disappointed, not by your talent or skill, but by your arrogant decision to debut your new songs without performing the biggest hits.

Okay, not to be too harsh, but let’s just reflect on what makes a hit record a hit: A songwriter hears a melody and writes a song. You perform the song, and the label releases it into the world for your fans to accept or reject it. Your fans have accepted certain songs and have invested in those songs by buying them, downloading them, and/or purchasing concert tickets to see you perform them.  For you, those accepted songs have propelled your career, but for your fans, those songs are keepers of memories, memories that extend far beyond you, sir. Thus, when a fan asks for a specific megahit song to be performed, Brown Sugar, for instance, it is for them to replay those memories and of course sing along with you.

You can’t return from a 12-year hiatus marred with arrests and weight gain (and losses) and not perform the songs that have made you famous. The end result? Your loyal fans were cheated, those young people who don’t know you were confused; and the music lovers around the world are now giving you the side-eye as they ponder, Does D’Angelo Still Have It?

–Photos: Chris Mitchell

Deputy Editor, Rolling Out

  • Ghost

    Wrong! The fans rarely if ever decide for themselves whether a song is hot. They are mostly followers. They have to be sure that it is “OK” to like the song before they are willing to open their ears to it. How many times does a true music lover have to hear something before they can decide that they like it? People, most of them anyway, do not like good music. They like popular music. There’s overwhelming evidence to prove it. It’s no different from the “jazz lovers” who can’t understand the music of somebody as talented as Wayne Shorter, yet they are easily impressed by Kenny G’s ability to hold a single note for 10 plus minutes. 

    • Zondra Hughes

      Wayne Shorter fan over here, Ghost! Thanks for your input.

    • E Grimes75

       You said it well!

  • Albrightinez

    I was there!!! D’Angelo sucked!!!!

    • Zondra Hughes

      D’Angelo is so talented, let’s hope he retools his show and come back harder. =0)

  • smooch

    I was there… I saw… I was HIGHLY disappointed in his performance!!! The article is correct. His performance should have been about the FANS. It was AWFUL!! Next year, ESSENCE really needs to reevaluate the line up…

  • smooch

    I was there… I saw… I was HIGHLY disappointed in his performance!!! The article is correct. His performance should have been about the FANS. It was AWFUL!! Next year, ESSENCE really needs to reevaluate the line up…

  • comet

    I was there as well and I think D still has it. No disrespect to Trey Songz he was good as well, but he can’t play the keys like that. D’s was on that CP-70 hittin’ them George Duke licks.  

    • Zondra Hughes

      Comet, I see where you’re coming from. Sexiness is there…we just want to hear the favorites! Thanks for your comment.

  • Mrs. Tremaine Aldon Neverson

    Wow! I am still rooting for him. Maybe he was nervous cause he’s been away for twelve years. Who knows. Hope his new projet is good.

    • Zondra Hughes

      Yes, nervousness Mrs. Tremaine is a reality, the crowd was huge. I agree. Thank you for sharing.

  • Dorian

    I’m rooting for D as well. Plus, this article gives the attendees to much credit for being music lovers. Most of them are not music lovers, they’re attracted to the hype. There’s only one thing that matters to a music lover and that’s the quality of the music they’re hearing. It doesn’t have to be recognizable or popular, just good.  

  • easy street

    Yeah Zondra Hughes takes it up the ass!

  • Cool

    It’s amazing to me how all these “music fans” can listen to D’angelo and never once comment on his ability as an instrumentalist. That dude can play the keys like crazy. Great chord changes. 
    Plus its a known fact that the average “music fan” doesn’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to music. As far as they’re concerned, if a song or an album is successful, then it must be good; and conversely if nobody knows about it then obviously the song is not good enough to make it into the mainstream. Try this, make up your minds for yourself, forget what everybody else likes, make the determination for yourself once. 

  • E Grimes75

    What separates good artist from the great ones is risk!

    Not playing it safe even at the expense of your fans.

    Yes; this is the harsh truth that most music listensers cant understand or don’t care to. I think the former says it best.

    The sword of success is double edged and doesn’t tolerate fools. That goes for the fans and detractors of this artist and for D’angelo as well.

    Why do we as black people throw our artist away?

    The Stones and Paul McCartney can do all the wrong in the world and their fans hang in with them. Black folks are so wasteful when it comes to music.

    We demand excellence but don’t have the wherewithal to stick by artist that clearly are innovating and growing up!

    If you ask the average music listener why they like a particular piece of music rarely would they say because of the arraignments and or chord changes, the tickle of the gutar or the whisper of the violin. The nuances.

    They will say because it sounds good.

    Example: Donnell Jones song “Where I wanna be” is great because of the conversation that the singer is having with the guitar and the guitar responding in kind saying Amen essentially. Yes its about a man missing a good thing but musically it is what brings this all to often tale to life!

    But most miss that point! Now i don’t propose that the false music lovers should be lined up in front of a firing squad, but get a clue!

    It is painfully clear that most don’t take music serious as they claim but want to bash anyone that dares to take risks. Risk is what it is all about. He is almost 40 and is tired of the same music he’s been doing since he was 20.

    D’angelo’s only problem is that his catalog is too thin. Blame drugs or laziness but this is his sin. Not that his gut hangs over his belt or that he looks like a hells angel reject.

    here stands before us a man willing to risk it all for the sake of music purity. I for one respect his approach and cant wait for more change.

    If you cant change, off your self!