Beck or no Beck, the record that everybody’s talking about is still D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah,” which came out in December to an eardrum-popping chorus of acclaim. And rightly so: It’s a thickly layered, conceptually rich synthesis of R&B, hip-hop, pop, jazz and classical music that’s got the critics hustling for relevant reference points. Listeners with very long memories have compared it to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and Sly and the Family Stone’s “There’s a Riot Goin’ On,” both of which turn 44 this year. For my part, I found myself thinking of an even older album, the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which fused a similarly dissimilar assortment of musical styles and techniques into a convincing whole. But no matter what “Black Messiah” reminds you of—if anything—it’s the most exciting pop-music album to come along in years.
-Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal