*There were real tears coming from Angela Johnson’s eyes as she wrapped up a performance of “Black Boy Lullaby” last week at New York City’s famed Blue Note.
Those tears were the tears of a mother, the tears of a woman concerned with the state of Black men in America, the tears of someone looking towards the future.
The energy she put into that performance in the wake of the recent deaths of Eric Garner, Michael Dunn and the still-fresh wounds of the murders of Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis and countless others was evident as she, and the crowd, needed a few moments to gather their thoughts.
“Black Boy Lullaby” is just a piece of what Angela Johnson has poured into her latest album Naturally Me; this album is her most intimate to date, as she’s decided to include parts of her usually reserved for private spaces. For Naturally Me is exploring a more sociopolitical perspective, writing and singing songs outside the normality of love and heartbreak. She delved into her relationship with money on “I Promise”, using the track to explore her fiscal responsibility in a way that allows many of us to examine just how we’re managing our finances. This album is the perfect platform to start a conversation about the state of our community and “Say Yeah” just may be that conversation starter; the song has a stream of consciousness approach that addresses the way the world seems to be moving without the best interest of its inhabitants in mind.
This album fully reflects how Angela Johnson feels in this moment. She’s an independent artist that doesn’t have the restrictions many artists work within, so the room to express herself is plenty and she’s elected to eschew songs written towards getting airplay, opting to reach our hearts instead. The expectations of her past have subsided and the freedom of now is reflected as she belts out Teena Marie’s “Déjà Vu (I’ve Been Here Before)”, which feels like a pronouncement of this Angela Johnson.
This Angela Johnson is not so much different from what she’s displayed on previous albums; it’s just a fuller picture. Aside from being a singer/songwriter/producer, she’s a wife and mother, daughter, friend and citizen of the world, and Naturally Me reflects her in each of those roles. The tracks are upbeat and don’t allow space to feel preachy, instead coming across as if having a pleasant conversation with Mrs. Johnson.
The catchy “He Saw Love in Me” and “I Don’t Mind” are reminiscent of the Motown Sound, but holds the message of loving yourself to truly be able to love someone else and working to keep your relationship intact. It’s no secret Angela Johnson creates with the inspiration of the greats in her heart; her early (and forever) musical influences of Chaka Khan, Al Green and the aforementioned Motown Sound make appearances throughout her music. Naturally Me was her “now or never” album and I am thankful she chose to release it now, as each song has its place throughout the days on the calendar.
The emotion from the performance was still fresh as the line to purchase Naturally Me and meet its creator snaked through a crowded hallway. Those who came to see Angela Johnson and those who just wanted to see a show at the Blue Note laughed, cried, dance, sang and ultimately got to know Angela Johnson. Yes, that’s what happens when people are being themselves; it happens that Angela Johnson created beautiful melodies and lyrics to better acquaint music lovers with who she is.
Naturally Me is now available via iTunes and wherever good music is sold, courtesy of Purpose Music Group.