Natacha Atlas :: Something Dangerous
For years the Nuevo-Queen of Egypt has pumped out semi-classic recordings (killer tracks layered within filler), guesting on endless projects (Transglobal Underground, Jah Wobble, Cheb i Sabbah, to begin the list), making that instantly recognizable voice global. More and more you just knew something had to break, as it now has. Fans have been biding time for her Album-That-Makes-It, and if Something Dangerous doesn't, she may well consider calling it quits.
No such insanity will be necessary. This queen is here to stay, flexing hard on the production tip with banging hip-hop beats, swinging Arabic/French/English poetics and smoother-than-smoove R&B grooves. Atlas accomplishes some serious genre-bending on Dangerous, proven on the opening "Adam's Lullaby." Calling in classically-trained composer Jocelyn Pook (check out her Untold Things on Real World circa 2001) weaves a lilting landscape reminiscent of numerous Atlas-orchestral endeavors. But when the title track - featuring lyricist Juliana on the one-two - kicks in, urban radio and international soundfare collide.
Atlas is not shy about crossover appeal on Dangerous - the entire album unfolds like one reaching punch after another. Her last full-length, Ayestheni, boasted one English-language cut. This time out over half swings AmeriEuro, both production and dialect. "Eye of the Duck" bends down low Rasta-style with serious patois wordplay within a roving dancehall riddim. But the One to get radio play has to be "Who's My Baby," featuring The Cinematic Orchestra vocalist Niara Scarlett, in a cross-continental R&B jam so hot Mary J. would blush with inequity.
The latter half slows, somewhat unfortunately, into more adult contemporary geared material, melodic and sweet but slightly tiresome. Atlas's attempt at James Brown's monster "This is a Man's World" is cute, quirky, but only for a few spins. "Like the Last Drop" concludes what was begun, another classical dream morphing into gothic electronica, as surreal an endeavor in eight-and-a-half minutes as the entire album in 72. While we may not have gotten 100% on this one, we see the popular vote in our favor. And while this means absolutely nothing in American politics, it makes the world of difference in music.