Chaka Khan: Hello Happiness

Posted February 26, 2019 by in Electronica



2.5/ 5


Genre: , ,
Producer: , , ,
Label: ,
Genre: Electro, pop, R&B
Producer: Switch, Sarah Ruba Taylor, Troydon Murison, BOT, Sanford Livingston
Label: Diary Records, Island Records
Format: Digital download, compact disc, vinyl
Time: 27:14
Release Date: 15 February 2019
Spin This: "Like a Lady," "Like Sugar"


Underneath all the EDM effects, Chaka sounds good; cool to hear her teasing electro and reggae grooves


The songs hardly develop, germinate into anything resembling a pop radio breakthrough. Plus, it's an EP, way too short.

New EP from the reigning Queen of Funk has its moments, but teases and leaves us thirsting for peak-level Chaka

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

New EP from the reigning Queen of Funk has its moments, but teases and leaves us thirsting for peak-level Chaka

chakakhan-01Chaka Khan is a primal force to be reckoned with. Outside her own catalog and those from her one-time Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominated band Rufus, she has beasted some of the greatest pop and rock records of the last forty years. From her audacious cover of Prince’s “I Feel for You” to the epic last minutes of Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love,” from the Stevie Wonder-penned funky soul of “Tell Me Something Good” to her ’80’s electro-pop jam “Ain’t Nobody” during the last years of her tenure with Rufus, Chaka, who has been often dubbed by fans and critics alike as the Queen of Funk, has most certainly paid her dues. Her last studio album, Funk This, may have been her most greatest recent triumph. With Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis in play, a semi Rufus reunion with Tony Maiden on “Pack’d My Bags/You Got the Love,” the funky diva pulled off one of her best solo albums ever, even landing her two Grammy wins. Now after breaking a 12-year hiatus, Khan, 65, has returned to the LP tradition to hand out Hello Happiness.

This time around, she’s surrounding around young Khan worshippers disciplined in the electro game (Major Lazer’s Switch, Sarah Ruba Taylor), remixing her timeless vocals down in the dancey beats, often times with reverb, echo and flanger effects on top. “Like a Lady” soars to the top as the best of the chunk thanks to its sparse live strings and even an out front percussion workout. It’s reminiscent of her earliest ‘80’s funk assignments with Arif Martin, like a sneaky “I Feel for You” followup. But the majority of the tracks here feel like mixtape after thoughts. Khan’s vocals are spliced so heavily on “Don’t Cha Know” that it never really feels authentic or organic, as if her voice is speaking to us from some alternate universe. That may please a select segment, especially in the dance world, but the tracks mostly play like experimental demos, hardly playing like full songs with the traditional verse-chorus-vamp fare. “Like Sugar,” the disc’s leading single and released with some fanfare last year, is just The Fatback Band’s “Do the Bus Stop” with Khan’s saucy ad-libs and a squeezed-in verse. The chorus, on mad repeat, is done with such repetition that it starts to stick: “It’s like sugar so sweet/Good enough to eat.” It’s funky as hell, but lacks the pedigree of creativity from her sizable hits. There’s also the title cut, bearing Chic-like beats atop the nirvana of disco religion: “Take me back to the dance floor so I can dance away my blues/Love is what I’m here for, so don’t give me no bad news.”

Once all seven tracks are heard within a surprising twenty six minutes, you’re almost left feeling slighted, cheated to some degree. Sure, this is an EP, not an album, but it’s only the majestic Khan delivered in parts, in increments, in doses. Sure she sounds like classic Khan, belting like a funk pro when the time is ripe and cruises through those bottom notes like a sneaky jazz soul siren, but the songs heard here are small exercises to her catalog.

There are good moments aboard, but they hardly rise to the occasion of greatness. “Isn’t That Enough” puts Khan in a Bob Marley-The Police environment, a glorious stylish summation that fits perfectly on her vocal delivery. Sadly, besides its juicy groove and Erykah Badu-mess, it never materializes and falls apart for not having enough meat to chew. And “Ladylike” does slow the uptempo pace down using Quiet Storm ingredients, but it’s actually “Like a Lady” with a sexy swerve. It’s merely a bonus track, although a fairly decent one.

Those who are hungry to go “through the fire” to get new Chaka content will mute their hissy fits to a murmur over Hello Happiness. Why? Because they got something from the Queen of Funk, and something is better than nothing. Still, it’s a bit of a disappointment, considering it’s not a full length and hardly drops the ferocity of anything resembling a breakout pop hit, a burden that is solely designed by the album’s slate of producers. Things feel way too underground here, but hey — the funk was hardly about that mainstream life until Prince and Bruno came along. Here’s hoping a full length Chaka experience, and something meatier, will abound in the years to come.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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