Black and White America

Lenny Kravitz

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Black and White America Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Lenny Kravitz has walked the musical line between Black and White America ever since 1989, when he cannily crafted his persona through strands of Prince, Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix. Kravitz has never been shy about his colorblindness but the very title of Black and White America suggests that he may finally be getting political, something he’s avoided outside of the occasional free love platitude. Naturally, this isn’t quite the case. Certainly, there are hints of politics flowing throughout the album, but Kravitz is never about detail -- he’s about big bright broad strokes, a skill that’s on prime display here. Unlike the monochrome It Is Time for a Love Revolution, Black and White America pulsates with color and texture, playing somewhat as a return to his one-man band hippie fantasias. If anything, this is looser than Let Love Rule and Mama Said and more forward-thinking too, the Mayfield-isms offset by heavy synthesizers and dance beats, the overall package bearing a modernist snap to its retro revivalism. Even with that stylized flair and cameos from Jay-Z and Drake, Black and White America never quite feels like it belongs to 2011; it seems as fuzzy and analog as its cover photo of a young Kravitz, which is of course a large part of its appeal. Kravitz’s greatest gift is how he evokes different eras through his sonic synthesis, and he’s let that gift slide slightly as he’s emphasized guitars over the studio. Here, he reverses that dynamic, playing the studio like the virtuoso that he is, and he’s come up with his best record in years, a shamelessly enjoyable piece of aural candy.

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