By David Browne
July 12, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Peace Beyond Passion

C+

On her second album, Madonna’s quirkiest discovery continues her quest to make R&B for the head. Few singers in any genre would quote from the Bible and Kahlil Gibran, or attempt a noble, if heavy-handed, anti-gay-bashing song, ”Leviticus: Faggot.” Yet for all her sexual politics and shaved head, Me’Shell Ndegedocello makes curiously sterile music; Peace Beyond Passion‘s blend of old-school fusion and light funk is more George Benson than George Clinton. Its most gripping cut is a seething remake of Bill Withers’ suspicious-minds ballad ”Who Is He and What Is He to You”; by leaving the song’s genders unchanged, she adds a completely new gay-infused dimension to it. Next time, she’d do better to put passion before peace. C+

Peace Beyond Passion

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