Though the world has just hopped on the Goapele train, it has been on the tracks for quite a while. She self-released her debut album back in 2001 and has been working ever since to increase her fan base and spread awareness on sociopolitical issues. Born to a South African political exile, Goapele was raised to be active in unjust matters of society. In the past, a lot of her music was dedicated to such causes. Her new album, Strong as Glass, however, is an album about love, and all the happiness, frustration and complication that comes with it.
As the first song begins, you are immediately astounded by Goapele’s ability to compose a melody. Her vocals are pure neo-soul, and her tone is unlike any other artist you’ve heard. With impeccable lyrics, Goapele boasts her independence and strength in personality but explains that unlike her shell, her core is quite fragile. She is simply afraid of her heart being broken. The lyrics say, “Cause I’m only as strong as glass / They say I’m built to last / But I could break.”
“Hey” is an upbeat song that shows off Goapele’s vocal genius. With Snoop Dogg adding his flow technique throughout the song and a decent melody, it’s hard not to bop your head to this song. This tune has a racier theme than the rest of the album, as Snoop stays true to his ‘pimp’ mentality and Goapele sings along agreeably. But her love story takes a turn in the next track when she’s becomes fed up with the “Insanity.”
This song is one that any woman who’s ever been mistreated can relate to. In the song, Goapele recognizes the man’s faults but still finds a way to blame herself. She sings “From the outside looking in / I’m foolish / How did I get myself / into this / It’s like you signed your name across my heart,” which is a testimony of the man’s hold on her. Then later in the song she belts about out a catchy yet meaningful chorus that says “I keep on thinking you’ve changed / And you just keep acting the same / This is insanity.” Like so many other women, she finally realizes that things just aren’t going to get any better, and it’s her time to move on.
“Perfect” has a very modern production that is paired with smooth, clean vocals, giving you a perfect blend of old and new soul. The lyrics to the song hints that she hasn’t completely moved on, like the last track suggests. She admits that she “fighting” for her relationship. The vamp is another matter; it sounds a lot like something you would hear from Zhane, which is a lovely treat.
With simple and heartfelt lyrics that ask, “what in the world have we done?” Goapele’s beautiful vocals ease through the immaculate ballad titled “What in the World.” This track is very easy on the ears and is free of any unnecessary modern effects. It contains key progressions, which are staples of the musical world that many modern albums lack. Goapele is clearly setting the tone for what today’s soul should sound like. This simplistic, song eases to the ending and leads to “My Love.”
The song has introductory music that sounds like something used to announce the arrival of a queen. And when Goapele begins singing, you get a sense that the queen has indeed arrived. With a well-known male feature artist, Goapele achieves every female soul singer’s dream in track six. She gets her Eric Benet moment. Like Tamia, Faith Evans and many others before her, Goapele’s duet with Benet is a hit. She completely surpasses Faith Evans but let’s face it, Tamia’s “Spend My Life With You” is untouchable.
“Powerful” is another relatable track for female listeners and also is reminiscent of music from former soul singers. With lyrics like, “tired of weeding through the fools,” Goapele makes the statement that she is looking for that special someone. Wondering where he is, Goapele sings a chorus with a borrowed melody from Minnie Riperton’s 1975 hit “Loving You.” She does this with a contemporary twist that is powerful and seems effortless.
Track eight is a ballad with perfect legato vocals that ignite emotions that will make you want to re-play it. I call it bliss… “Some Call it Love.” The eloquently written lyrics say, “Sometimes it feels like there’s an ocean between us / Seems like I want to run when my walls tumble down / Your so close it’s scaring me / Could this be what I asked for/ The doubt grabs a hold of me/ And I just can’t ignore.”
“Last Days” is introduced with electronic sound effects that sound like something from an alien invasion scene in a Sci-Fi movie. It adds an awesome perspective to the song’s theme of loving like it’s the last time you’ll see each other. In this modern Neo-soul track, Goapele sings “Pretend like it’s the last days / Love me like the last days.” The song ends with the same Sci-Fi sounds it began with but slightly more intense and leads into the last song, “Truth Is.”
The last song sums up the happiness, frustration and complications from the previous tracks. Goapele is still holding on to the hope that true love is out there. She makes it clear that she regrets nothing in life or love, because “everything happens for a reason,” like she sings in the song. The song has a brilliant never-ending effect and fades out with Goapele still sing in full voice. It was the perfect finish to a flawless Soul album.