Thursday, March 8, 2012

Angélique Kidjo: Logozo (1991)


(Island)

!! CAUTION !!

The only thing you can really take from this international breakthrough in Worldbeat (that's the genre you'll be familiar with from hearing it on the boombox at Pet Supermarket) by Beninoise superstar Kidjo is that it is, in fact, possible to be aggressively middlebrow and toned-down to safety no matter where you're from or what sort of music you play. This is not West African music with a Western bent; it's vapid dance pop recorded in the U.S. by a Paris-based singer who happens to hail from Ouidah and sing in Yorùbá and Fon (as well as French and English). The music, though occasionally infectious in its kitsch (the deservedly celebrated "Batonga"), is bogged down with processed corn. If you like this and claim not to like Gloria Estefan, no offense, but it's time to reevaluate.

Wait a minute, though -- Kidjo's a brilliant person, an important humanitarian, a voice for women's rights, etc. You can't help, especially if you've got a taste for West African pop music, to want to advocate for her, but it would dishonest of me to suggest that there's much appeal here to anyone who likes something in their music, even music that deliberately shirks questions of region, to reflect some level of non-homogenized personality. Now that Kidjo's unabashedly a French-American studio star, maybe we can all take a deep breath and celebrate the fact that the era of Worldbeat as a Trend is mostly behind us.

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