“The Love Below” is Andre 3000’s half of Outkast’s new album, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.” Although categorized as rap, this album is mostly singing.
The disc begins with a nice slow song with piano, strings and timpani – similar to something you would hear on “The Sims” – then fades into distorted guitar with a bit of whammy bar action. The drums are next, giving order to the chaotic lead guitar, then melding into a recognizable jazzy form, with slight flashbacks of the whammy-laden guitar. What caught my attention about this song was that it is the second track and went from chaos to an up-tempo jazz piece just like “Up From the Skies,” the second song on “Axis: Bold As Love” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This may or may not have been done on purpose, but I’m certain that Outkast listened to Hendrix, since I recognized some possible Curtis Mayfield-inspired lyrics, and it is a fact that they have worked with the master of Funk himself, George Clinton (the mastermind behind the Parliament/Funkadelic). They definitely acknowledge and respect their roots.
“The Love Below” has a large mix of styles, something other contemporary bands wish they could accomplish. The first single off of the disc is “Hey Ya!” and is a perfect mix of acoustic guitar, synth bass and drum machine. On “Behold a Lady” Andre cries out for the need of “classic ladies,” a purportedly diminishing species.
“Love in War” is a proposition for love made in the timeless form of “Make love, not war” and “Let’s kiss, not fight.” This album even features a song sung by Cupid himself (fittingly titled “Happy Valentine’s Day”).
You might want to listen to “She’s Alive” through a pair of good headphones; the production on that song is intoxicating.
This album definitely has experimental tendencies, from being a partial concept album to avant-garde jazz to an acoustic guitar-oriented song reminiscent of early Beatles (at least the guitar part). And speaking of concept album, this album flows as smoothly as Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” and that is no easy task.
Although “The Love Below” doesn’t have something for everyone, as many music critics falsely claim other albums have, it does have something for most, and in reality that’s hard to achieve. We live in a world where “punk” is mainstream and “alternative” is in, and with all the overused formulas for making hits I’m relieved to see a light in the darkness of this musical muddle. .