Bilal released his overall fifth album (his second on Purpose Music) via iTunes on the 30th June 2015, which was the follow-up to his 2013 effort, “A Love Surreal.” For some reason or another, I decided to stop listening to Bilal for a little while after he released that album, but then when “In Another Life” came out two years later, it was definitely a welcome surprise. In fact it caused me to listen to the album twice in a row. I guess I must have liked what I heard! Eventually I got bored… or something… and I decided to do a review. Here’s what I think of each song on the album:
Sirens II: Imagine playing an album for the very first time and immediately being hit with the sound of a live drum kit coming straight at you. Exactly, you’re going to be in for an incredible ride. Live instrumentation wins all the time!! Bilal is talking about sirens coming to take you away… did somebody commit a crime? Or is he talking about wanting to take you away with his music? Either way it’s a great opener. Although it begs the question, if this song is titled “Sirens Two,” where’s “Sirens One”? Turns out that this is named as such because it’s based on an instrumental piece by a fellow who goes by the name of Adrian Younge who is not only featured here but he also serves as the producer of every song on the album. In fact on the back of the CD cover it says, “Adrian Younge presents.” At this point, the album’s only just begun, but so far so great!
Star Now: There’s only one way to describe this particular song: Trippy. Come to think of it, the drums are almost Trip Hop influenced and the whole track just kind of glides while Bilal sings in falsetto about a female crying a virgin’s tears and a fellow who could only think of pussy. I wonder why that lyric got my attention so quickly? Immediately after that we hear a female’s voice coming in, saying that “it’s all for you.” I wonder what she was implying? Anyhow, this woman goes by the name of Saudia Yasmein. When you buy your albums digitally you never know these things! Go back to buying CDs, kids!! All right onto the next track.
Open Up the Door: Bilal brings forth a Latin inspired track, which may or may not have been inspired by the fact that Miles Davis kept all the doors opened while he recorded his “Live Evil” album, which is something that Bilal mentioned during an interview where he was promoting this project. He’s definitely painting you a vivid picture though: “Every time I open up the door I can hear the song that the wind blows..… Lay your seed into the ground and see if it will grow.” Sounds like this song could be a metaphor for creation. If so…. brilliant. His falsetto is once again, right on point.
I Really Don’t Care: The only thing that occurs to you as a listener when you hear this song is that Bilal is in love. Simple and plain. He’s just talking about wanting to get away with his woman and that he’s not really bothered by what her friends think of him, which is nothing new, songs like this one have been made many times before, not that that’s a bad thing. Even though it’s a decent song, the instrumentation seems a little off in places and the drums in particular sound a bit “drunk.”
Pleasure Toy (feat. Big K.R.I.T.): Personification, that’s what you’re getting here. Prince did it with “Little Red Corvette,” D’Angelo did with “Brown Sugar” and now Bilal is actually singing from the perspective of a female sex toy. Of course only he would be crazy enough to come up with a concept like this one! Unlike the rest of the album, this song is fuelled by a programmed drum beat, which to me is very reminiscent of that ‘80s sound, even though Bilal said he was trying to create a “porn groove.” By the way speaking of PRINCE, this song is quite clearly influenced by him as far as the vocal phrasings are concerned, but then at 3:02 the man himself comes in and he breaks out that legendary raspy falsetto. Oh, wait a second… that’s actually Bilal! Oh shit!!! He sounds JUST like Prince… uh oh… didn’t Bilal say that he wants to raise his middle finger whenever somebody tells him he sounds like Prince? Oh. Sorry. He still does though. This song also features a verse by a rapper who calls himself Big K.R.I.T. Never heard of him but he has a good flow.
Satellites: Back to the live instrumentation. Bilal put this song up for streaming on Sound Cloud not too long before the album dropped, so in a sense it was the first ‘single.’ Although I can’t help thinking that musically it sounds a bit too similar to “Sirens.” Bilal otherwise brings forth his Prince influence once again with the incredibly high falsettos and a cry of “Why the hell did I get U high?” It seems as though this song is making some kind of commentary on the corruption of the world and for some reason, Bilal was wearing some kind of wild dog’s head in the video clip, which he can also be seen holding in the CD booklet. Who ever said Bilal was not eccentric?
Lunatic: In this song, Bilal is singing from the perspective of a man who went crazy and killed a whole bunch of innocent people in a movie theatre, which was a true event that occurred while this album was being made. If you didn’t know any better you would probably say, “Oh it’s just Bilal spazzing out,” because he’s screaming his head off and generally going ballistic. Say what you will but even Bilal knows he’s mad, he even said that one day his children will listen to this album with their children and say: “Check this out, it’s your crazy ass Grand Daddy.” Admission is always the first step, I say. Clearly this song is appropriately named.
Money Over Love: The first twenty seconds of this song features Bilal doubling his vocals and singing the phrase, “No never again.” You could say this is somewhat of a Princely thing to do, as his vocals are a mixtutre of both a low register and a high falsetto. Again Adrian Young is pounding away on the drums. Suddenly the beat changes into something that sounds almost frantic and then Bilal gets on the mic and tells us how he’s noticing that even his preacher is starting to prefer money and other finer things in life. At times his voice sounds very Curtis Mayfield influenced. When Bilal’s verse is done, Younge plays the same beat he was playing at the beginning of the song. It changes again and this time Kendrick La Mar comes in to return the favour after Bilal featured so heavily on his album “To Kill A Mockingbird.” La Mar drops quite a furious rhyme, which features the line: “Fuck Mr Cupid, put that vagina on me!” Ummm… okay.
Love Child: The intro to this song sounds similar to Cody Chesnutt’s “Everybody’s Brother.” Eventually the song becomes very Latin tinged and Bilal breaks out his trembly vocals. He sounds all kinds of quirky here, no doubt. Actually it almost sounds like he’s screaming. I guess if he’s saying, “You’ve had enough unruly love” he can’t just say it out right, he has to make it eccentric. Ditto for when he remarks, “you wanted to be a freak like me.” he’s saying some pretty outlandish stuff here.
Holding It Back: Another artist that Bilal collaborated with recently is a New Zealand born chickie named Kimbra. She pops up on this track to return the favour. Just seems to be a straight up love song, nothing too deep here. Again the live instrumentation has won! OK, so they’re suggesting sex, cause Kimbra is kind of moaning and what not at one point and Bilal is telling her to strip down.
Spiralling: For a second there I was under the impression that “Holding It Back” segued into “Spiralling,” because the two songs sound very similar. Bilal is telling us that things seemed to be going well on a warm summer night…. and….. uh-oh, why is a beautiful love song suddenly haunting him? **Insert eek face emoticon** Now he’s talking about a girl spiralling out of control because she “still has that shit on her nose.” In other words, she’s addicted to drugs. Now the shit’s hit the fan! At one point Bilal says, “You know that I’m fucked too!” As I said earlier, admission is the first step. Perhaps he put these two songs together and intentionally made them sound similar in order to bring us both the yin and the yang…. or rather the light and the HELLA DARK, if you will.
Bury Me Next To You: And speaking of the hella dark…. what else can you call a song with a title like this one?! Most likely it’s a work of fiction. Aside from that it sounds like all of the instruments are gliding, or rather it’s as if a spooky looking ghost is floating through the air. If that’s what Bilal was going for, then…. bullseye… but of course this is just my interpretation…. of the situation. For the record, I had a hard time reviewing this song, but then Bilal himself had a hard time putting the song together!! Check out his interview on the Boiler Room where he talks about how he literally put the lyrics together by chopping up pieces of poetry that were written down by himself and his friend.
Verdict: It’s a solid album from beginning to end. ‘Nuff said.