Written By: Mandi Lauren Nowitz
I first became familiar with Me’Shell Ndegeocello when she did an amazing duet/cover of the Van Morrison song “Wild Night” with John Cougar Mellencamp (does anyone really know what name he goes by now) in 1994. It reached number three and made her an unpronounceable household name as she slayed the track, vocally, instrumentally and physically. Here was this bald African-American woman, dressed in a vest and tight jeans, almost like a Melissa Etheridge, a sound we had not heard in a long time. Me’Shell’s voice had this power; a strength that only helped “Wild Night” become an instant success.
Two years later, she released “Peace Beyond Passion” on Madonna’s Maverick label, the same label that helped to launch Alanis Morissette. Not only was she the lead vocalist but Me’Shell also contributed instrumentally, playing the bass guitar, guitar, percussion, multi instruments, drum programming and contributed to the arrangement. She even had Wendy Melvoin of Wendy and Lisa and Prince’s The Revolution on guitars.
Singles off of “Peace Beyond Passion” did relatively well on the dance charts as well as the R&B singles chart and landed Me’Shell a Grammy nomination. It was the song “Who Is He (And What Is He To You?),” a cover of the Bill Withers classic, that helped to define the album and bring it menial success. Her song titles were all pretty religious yet she did throw in the N-word as well as the word “faggot.” That may have been what put some fans off of the album in the sense that they would not mind saying those words lyrically but not as a title.
In an interview with SongFacts in 2014, Me’Shell explained that she comes up with the song titles after she has finished the song. “At the very end. Why do you ask?” I like how she turns the question around when it kind of makes sense to ask since they seem so controversial. Though I am extremely liberal, I was reluctant to listen to songs titled “Leviticus: Faggot” and “Deuteronomy: Niggerman,” I found something freeing about “Peace Beyond Passion” and would highly recommend it, if only for the perfection in Me’Shell’s musical arrangements. Here are the top three tracks you must listen to off of this album!
1. The Womb: the first track off of the album is reminiscent of Sade and the beats make you want to sway. There is this inner peace you feel upon turning it on and the vibe becomes chill. I dig it.
2. Mary Magdalene: I am loving the way that Me’Shell mixes her smooth vocals with speech, as if she is the choir and the preacher.
3. Stay: soul-infused to the max, this is the definition of a smooth jam. Me’Shell sounds like a female Barry White on this track with a touch of Toni Braxton.
I would definitely recommend “Peace Beyond Passion” along with a glass of champagne and a hot bath. It’s pure chill out, kick back music and I think we could all use some of that in times of turmoil and uncertainty.