Remembering Nina Simone: A Track-By-Track Review Of ‘Nina Revisited’
To coincide with the release of the original Netflix documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?, REVIVE Music and RCA Records are releasing a tribute album titled Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone today (July 10).
The 16-track, star-studded album features some of Nina Simone’s most popular songs, bringing today’s chart toppers together to pay homage to the brilliant chanteuse. With contributions from Robert Glasper and Ms. Lauryn Hill, this album delivers a fresh new take on her wildly famous classics.
VIBE gives the play-by-play of the album below.—Mawuena Sedodo
“My Mama Could Sing” (Intro) – Lisa Simone
This short intro track sets the mood for rest of the album. With only seven words repeated throughout the song (“I had a mother who could sing”), Lisa Simone captures the pain that lives on in anyone who has lost a parent. Still, with just a simple blend of instruments, she perfectly emulates her mother’s deep, rich tone and forces the listeners to get lost in the sweet sounds of nostalgia.
“Feeling Good” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
Ms. Hill belts out one of Nina Simone’s most famous hits. Here, ears see the Fugees frontwoman try her hand at scatting, capturing the essence of 1965, when Nina originally recorded the song. Though Lauryn doesn’t quite make it her own as Nina did, it is still a pleasant tribute to the jazz legend. The best part: the show-stealing guitar at the end.
“I’ve Got Life” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
This track puts the perfect modern twist on the Simone classic, complete with poetic rhymes from Lauryn Hill. Much like the racial strife taking place during the original song’s composition, Hill joins the likes of J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and other rappers who are using music to vocalize their distress with today’s racial climate. When listening to the song, I don’t know whether to dance or go protest—but that’s fine, this seven minute jam gives you ample time to ponder that decision.
“Ne me quitte pas” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
Though the song is entirely in French, Ms. Hill does a fantastic job of holding our attention. The song appears to fade out at some moments, giving the listeners the illusion that the song is ending, only to be picked up again at full force, having the listeners on their toes the entire time. Though the cover is a departure from the original recording, it still delivers the same emotion and intimacy that Ms. Simone conveyed 50 years ago.
“Baltimore” – Jazmine Sullivan
Jazmine Sullivan opts for a deeper tone at the top of the track, slipping into her signature belting as the song goes on. Coupled with a jazzy beat, Jazmine’s sultry voice delivers a solid rendition of Nina Simone’s hit song “Baltimore.” It is almost astonishing at how relevant this song still is today, given the unrest and poverty that continues to plague the city. Like the original, Sullivan’s cover offers the perfect hope for the people of B-more.
“Love Me or Leave Me” – Grace
In a time where blue-eyed soul singers dominate the charts, Australian superstar Grace doesn’t disappoint. Using her silky jazz vocals, Grace perfectly captures Nina Simone’s passion and emotion. Complete with a couple of scats, this track leaves listeners in a daze, getting caught up in the mellow and laid-back vibe of the track. Favorite this.
“My Baby Just Cares For Me” – Usher
Released in 1958 by Nina Simone, Usher puts a 2015 spin on the classic song, “My Baby Just Cares For Me.” The master R&B crooner lists all the superficial things that his baby could care less about, such as Instagram likes and expensive gifts. Sounding like an unreleased cut from his 2008 album Here I Stand, Usher conquers the true essence of love and simplicity on this musical gem.
“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” – Mary J. Blige
Mary’s voice is almost unrecognizable on this track. As an ode to Nina Simone, the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul taps into her lower register to deliver her own rendition of this classic song. Complete with her perfectly polished vocals, Mary demonstrates the grit and passion that Simone displayed throughout her musical career.
“Sinnerman” – Gregory Porter
The pounding drum and layered vocals make this track an instant standout. While it is extremely hard to outdo the original version, Gregory Porter holds his own as he pours his heart and soul into the track. Between his voice and the captivating instruments in the background, try your best not to get lost in the blissful melody.
“We Are Young Gifted and Black” – Common & Lalah Hathaway
As #BlackLivesMatter continues to be a campaign on- and offline, Common and Lalah Hathaway perfectly take this Nina Simone classic and tailor it to the issues going on today. This feel-good track elicits pride in being African-American. Calling out movements in cities such as Ferguson, New York City and Baltimore, Comm and Hathaway remind listeners that their struggles are not in vain and despite what goes on around them, things are going to be okay.
“I Put A Spell on You” – Alice Smith
Over an eerie beat, Alice Smith revisits this song with the same chilling vocals of her predecessor. A little over six minutes long, this song showcases the versatility of Smith’s voice. While the song is a tad bit longer than necessary, it still demonstrates how the simplicity of a record can capture your heart, something that Nina Simone was a master of.
“I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl” – Lisa Simone
Like mother, like daughter. The talented offspring of Nina Simone makes her second appearance on the project, delivering the spot-on richness and soulfulness of her momma on a sweet track.
“Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
Definitely the star of this album, Lauryn reemerges, putting her own personal style on “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair.” A stark departure from the original version, Lauryn picked up the tempo as she sang on ode to her true love. The similarities between Lauryn and Nina are obvious, but Lauryn does listeners the pleasure of remixing the classic song on her own terms, rather than duplicating the original.
“Wild is the Wind” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
The track starts off with a haunting piano melody, laying the foundation for L-Boog’s beautiful vocals for a wild ballad.
“African Mailman” – Ms. Lauryn Hill
The instrumental-only song is sure to satisfy all the jazz heads. The vivid instrumentation is a salute to the original.
“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” – Nina Simone
Saving the best for last, the late songstress herself caps off the tribute album. Before passing away at 70, Nina was very vocal about her personal experiences with racism. She was extremely active in the Civil Rights movement, lending her voice and celebrity to those marching for peace and equality. This upbeat song represents the essence of Nina’s catalog.