Faith A. Pennick’s Voodoo is a great afternoon read on one of my favorite albums of all time.
As with any expository writing for music I appreciate, I read this to deepen my listening experience of the album—and with its wealth of fun facts and context, it certainly did. It was cool to learn that “Chicken Grease” was a Prince code word for his guitarist to play a 9th minor chord while playing 16th notes; that “Untitled” wasn’t supposed to be about sex at all but about a profound spiritual experience with the Holy Ghost and about D’Angelo and Angie Stone’s romantic and musical relationship.
Most importantly though, I was unaware of the personal consequences on D’Angelo after becoming objectified and over-sexualized with the release of his “Untitled” video.
It’s clear that D’Angelo, as someone singularly focused on his music, did not want to become a sex symbol.
But his managers and label executives thought it was a great idea for promotion and after the video became a phenomenon D’Angelo lost autonomy over his own body. It’s devastating to see the record industry, time and time again, concurrently dehumanize and capitalize off of Black people.
Why do so many different industries from music to sports take on this superstructure from slavery? Is it simply racism, capitalism, and its exploitative nature?