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Why D'Angelo's No. 1 album almost didn't happen

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D'Angelo
Piotr Sikoa

”Voodoo,” the sophomore effort from neo-soulster D’Angelo, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s pop chart this week, selling 321,000 copies. And that’s no small feat: It topped the first-week sales of the latest releases from established R&B acts TLC (318,000), Mary J. Blige (239,000), and R. Kelly (216,000). But ”Voodoo” almost didn’t get made — following the double-platinum success of 1995’s ”Brown Sugar,” D’Angelo slipped into a period of creative paralysis. ”The thing about writer’s block is that you want to write so f—king bad,” he tells EW, ”[but] the songs don’t come out that way. They come from life. So you’ve got to live to write.”

Unfortunately, being on the road for two years promoting ”Brown Sugar” didn’t give the soulman much time for normal life experience. In fact, it wasn’t until the arrival of his first child in ’98 that D’Angelo began to create again. ”We started the sessions [for ”Voodoo”] not long after the birth of my son,” he explains, ”and a lot of the songs I was writing were about him, because that’s what I was going through in my life.” Two years, a sexy new video [”Untitled (How Does It Feel)”], and waves of critical praise later, D’Angelo has the top album in the land. But he learned his lesson, and isn’t taking any chances on another debilitating bout of writer’s block: Last year he welcomed child No. 2, a daughter.

(Reporting by Tom Sinclair)

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