MeShell Ndegeocello was first introduced to me as a bassist while I was coming up on the instrument. I was blown away by her technical prowess. Her hard funk was something I immediately latched onto. It’s a style unique to itself. I spent hundreds of hours playing her basslines in a time when I’d do the same with artists like Jamiroquai, Soulive, and Tye Tribbett. But the days of 10 hour shed sessions lead me to sanity-trying frustration, and finally acceptance that I am not Ray Brown. As that time of life passed, so too did the affecting power of the usual funk-fusion/neo-soul suspects on my heart. Yet MeShell remains and always will.
MeShell remains because of a common thread she shares with my foundational musical loves: an expression of rage, pain, and love like bands such as Nirvana or Counting Crows.
Lyrics add a direct and personal message to songs, even if they are vague and limitless. When a lyric is matched perfectly with coordinated sounds, the affect is paralyzing to the soul. I could have easily written this about Nirvana’s “You Know You’re Right”, The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside”, or “Trouble” by The Jayhawks had MeShell Ndegeocello’s “Liliquoi Moon” not fit so well right now.
Something about the story wrapped in slow 6/8 keeps me trapped in a moment of reflective melancholy. Despite being a focal point of the verse lyric, the parental divide of her youth is not the message, but instead a catalyst for what is truly the song’s point. Celestial swells give hint to the apparent dream while a low, pedaled bass keeps her grounded. As the story persists, the polyrhythmic harmonies build towards a yearning escape to the heavens. A look back before the final leap forward: a deathly silence leads to an explosion of sound. Whaling guitar clash with bass and drum unfolding a raging rise to freedom. “Liliquoi Moon” is the explosion of a screaming soul out of the chest cavity of a no-longer life-filled corpse; the mass of matter left behind, a proxy to promote the paradox of calling life reality.
“Death will come fast. I want to be free, and closer to the sky. Love grows cold, lonely and tired. On the wings of angels, I want to fly”