lundi 11 juillet 2011

Lucy Pearl, un avatar de Raphael Saadiq ?


Avoir vu Raphael Saadiq sur scène au Worldwide Festival donne forcément envie de se replonger dans ses vieux albums. Même s'il a intitulé son premier album, Instant Vintage, il disait récemment qu'il était encore trop tôt pour évaluer les artistes d'aujourd'hui : "personne ne peut juger le présent. 'Time will tell', comme on dit. On verra plus tard ce qu'il restera de notre époque" (Vibrations n°132, mars 2011). Mais concernant sa musique, on commence à avoir un certain recul : il a commencé il y a déjà plus de vingt ans avec Tony Toni Toné !, trio fondé à Oakland avec un frère et un cousin.

Et c'est il y a une bonne douzaine d'années, qu'il rassembla sa formation suivante, Lucy Pearl. Un autre trio. Celui-ci avec Ali Shaheed Muhammad (A Tribe Called Quest) et Dawn Robinson (En Vogue). Lucy Pearl s'inscrit dans une veine légère, son seul album convient tout à fait à la saison et je me souviens avoir souvent pris le CD dans mes bagages lors des vacances.


Entre Tony Toni Toné ! et Lucy Pearl, Raphael Saadiq vit un autre de ses projets de collaboration avorter : celui qu'il devait réaliser avec D'Angelo sous le nom de Linwood Rose et qui faisait saliver tous les amateurs. Cette page tournée, on conviendra qu'un peu de légèreté soit la bienvenue.

Pourtant malgré cette légèreté, la musique de Lucy Pearl a bien vieilli et garde la même fraîcheur. Je réécoute toujours avec plaisir l'album, et pas seulement ses deux tubes, "Dance Tonight" et "Don't Mess with My Man". Aucune faute de goût, nul remplissage, c'est un album véritablement abouti et spontané. A sa sortie, nombre de critiques ont présenté Lucy Pearl comme un groupe de nu soul, un terme que Raphael Saadiq ne supporte pas, "a sinful word". On devrait plutôt le considérer comme un groupe de R&B moderne, un groupe qui redonne ses lettres de noblesse au R&B. Raphael Saadiq n'était pas encore dans sa période vintage mais, déjà, il insistait pour que ça soit bien joué.

Même si Instant Vintage, le premier album solo de Saadiq est radicalement différent de celui de Lucy Pearl, la question que l'on se pose aujourd'hui, c'est pourquoi Raphael Saadiq n'a pas signé là son premier album ? Même s'il n'est pas seul à signer et composer les morceaux, Dawn Robinson et Ali Shaheed Muhammad apparaissent aussi dans les crédits, tout porte sa patte. "J'ai l'esprit d'équipe", disait-il à l'époque. Au moins cette équipe qui l'entoure lui laisse-t-elle tout loisir de se découvrir dans un morceau autobiographique très émouvant, "Remember the Times".

La musique de Raphael Saadiq s'appréhende en tant que trajectoire. D'abord parce qu'elle évolue, parce que d'un album à l'autre, on ne la trouve jamais au même endroit. Mais trajectoire aussi parce qu'il a toujours cherché à échapper à son destin, quitter le ghetto d'Oakland et sa violence endémique... Qu'il l'a dit et annoncé dans plusieurs chansons, dont "Remember the Times", justement : 

"I was walking down the street
Looking at my feet
I didn't have no shoes
On the way to school
Looking like a fool
And everybody knew
But it was all right
'Cause my friends of mine
Knew I had a guitar
The knew I would play
Become a big star
And I would go so far".

Ce regard sur l'enfance, avec les yeux de l'enfance, dit le rêve, "become a big star", "go so far" auquel on s'accrochait et qu'on est presque émerveillé d'avoir réalisé aujourd'hui. A l'image de ce que l'on découvre sur ce titre, "Dance Tonight".


Si le morceau est devenu un tube, on en est ravi. La réussite de Lucy Pearl, c'est aussi d'avoir su s'adapter au format mainstream, avec ce genre de vidéo qui se prête aux rotations sur MTV, sans avoir rien renier de son exigence. En créant, dans ce cadre-là, une musique originale... Franchement, pour un tube, c'est pas trop classe, ça ?

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