Considering that the qualifier “LGBTQ” can often be open to various interpretations, for the purposes of this particular list, we have defined an artist as LGBTQ if he, she or they have ever publicly identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer. Moreover, albums by groups have been included in the list if any of their members fit the aforementioned criteria, even if some members do not.
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MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO | Peace Beyond Passion
Selected by Terry Nelson
Peace Beyond Passion is Meshell Ndegeocello's follow-up to her 1993 debut LP Plantation Lullabies, which was a funky and intelligent blend of R&B, hip-hop, and jazz that helped usher in a new era of neo soul. Ndegeocello's sophomore album does not necessarily pick up where the first album left off. Instead, it went WARP speed into another dimension.
It wouldn't be fair to call Peace Beyond Passion a career defining album. What should be said is that this is the point where Ndegeocello grew and matured as an artist. Peace Beyond Passion effortlessly touches on third rail topics such as Christianity, racism, sexuality and homophobia, aided by Ndegeocello's smooth, fluid vocals and incisive lyrics. While some of the titles (“Deuteronomy: N*****man” and “Leviticus: F****t”) may be a bit heavy-handed, they are nevertheless substantive, direct, brilliant and NSFW.
The biggest hit from the album is a stellar cover of Bill Withers' 1972 single “Who Is He (And What Is He To You),” which guides us into a more somber and thought provoking tail end of the album. “Stay,” “Bittersweet,” and “A Tear and A Smile” form a subdued trio of songs that celebrate the beauty and spirituality of love, whether it be the love of another or the love you find within yourself.
The journey from track 1 to track 11 traces our heroine’s trek from questioning the very meaning of spirituality to finding it and eventually embracing it. Track 12, “Make Me Wanna Holler,” is a sobering summation of an uneasy life with no simple solutions or a way out. I’ve always found it interesting that Ndegeocello gave a songwriting credit to Marvin Gaye even though the only similarity is the song title. On Gaye’s What’s Going On (1971), the song is titled “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler).”
Peace Beyond Passion delivers the goods. It is a Swiss Army knife of sex, religion, race, and class that leaves you stunned and mesmerized. The number of times I said to myself “oh shit, did she just say that?” when I first bought the CD were numerous. It’s one of those albums that unravel as a revelation each time you play it. Peace Beyond Passion is a lyrically and musically wise concept album that remains relevant, insightful, and inspiring to this day.