Lenny Kravitz’s Black and White America is an epic 16-song work filled with socially conscious lyrical themes and funky throwback soul grooves. Like many of his previous albums, Kravitz plays most of the instruments. Black and White America includes some of his greatest songs, but is ultimately held back by a failure to eliminate the clunkers. Although he is a proficient multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, perhaps he may have benefited from some input from outside musicians? The album starts off strong, but a lot of the last third of the album is ultimately forgettable. Had Kravitz trimmed off some of the fat, Black and White America could have been the best album of his career.
The record opens with the awesome title track, “Black and White America.” The song is catchy and definitely nods to Isaac Hayes’s “Shaft” in its usage of horns and strings and the call and response backing vocals. Lyrically, it’s political, but hopeful and musically it’s just a darn good time. The momentum is kept up with “Come On Get It” and “Into the Black.” Skip “Liquid Jesus” and then the party continues with the Bowie-esque “Rock Star City Life.” “Boongie Drop” features guest appearances by DJ Military and Jay Z, but sounds out of place kind of like an outtake from No Doubt’s Rock Steady. Some of the more mediocre moments are his James Brown-impersonation “Life Ain’t Ever Been Better Than It Is Now” and the cheesy ballad “Dream” sounds very R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” However, there are plenty of redeeming moments like the Zeppeliny “Everything,” the sexy “Superlove” and the album’s closer “Push.”
All in all, Black and White America is a good album that could have been a great album had Kravitz been more selective. Check out the excellent “Black and White America,” “Rock Star City Life” and “Push.”