Like The Visitor, Kadhja Bonet's 2016 debut, follow-up Childqueen mixes folk and soul to spellbinding effect, provoking numerous flattering comparisons yet without possibly being mistaken for any one of them. Illustrated with billowing strings and dancing woodwinds over a delightfully warped rhythm section, it's another adventure stroll through the enchanted landscape of Bonet's mind. Only Bonet could write about the power and wonderment of motherhood with "Acquiesce in colors siphoned from the love that is me" and deliver it with oracular assurance. That phase in a child's life when she is the center of the universe, whimsical and unselfconscious, is both observed and personified by Bonet with a similar sense of awe. Tales of solace, companionship, and missed connections, conveyed elsewhere through Bonet's lilting melodies accentuated with xylophone, are just as moving. A handful of sonic factors set the album apart from the debut. There's an increased plumpness to the basslines, which slink throughout most of the album's duration. Primitive-sounding electronics burble, shriek, and jitter without intruding upon any of the songs, not unlike how Stevie Wonder utilized them on his '70s releases. Bonet's vocals, generally less diaphanous than they are on The Visitor, add definition, consequently making the album seem less precious. A couple of the highlights flat-out groove, like they're a cluster of synthetic handclaps away from matching the choral boogie of Kelley Polar. The strongest additions of all are sucker-punch synthetic strings that make "Mother Maybe" sound like the backdrop to an origin-story fantasy scene from a blaxploitation film. No information beyond track titles is provided on the compact disc edition, but the press material credits Bonet as creator of "everything that you hear" while noting that the album is "played mostly by the polymathic Bonet herself." Whether she did 95% or 100% of the work, Childqueen is a substantial accomplishment for Bonet, a cut above her debut, exceptional for 2018 or whatever year in which it takes place.
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman