(The Root) — For her latest album, titled Pour Une Âme Souveraine (or “For a Sovereign Soul”), singer and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello covers the legendary Nina Simone. The album is a 14-track collection of songs originally written and performed by the late jazz singer and pianist but reinterpreted by Ndegeocello.
Ndegeocello explained what drew her to record a Simone tribute album, telling NPR:
“She had a complicated life full of pain and disappointment,” Ndegeocello says. “If you read her book, it’s just sadness after sadness after sadness, disappointment after disappointment, and expectations that could not be fulfilled in her lifetime in terms of civil rights. She found out music was a dirty business. A lot of her disenchantment was from bad record deals, and it seems like Nina Simone just questioned why the world was the way it was.”
Ndegeocello’s typically raspy, soft voice sounds very different from Simone’s bold, powerful singing, but the album is still quite an experience. Songs such as “Be My Husband,” edited with new lyrics to suit Ndegeocello’s bisexuality, and Simone classics including “Feelin Good” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” complete with modern arrangements, transform Simone’s music into a statement for a whole new generation.