Anita Baker live on Jimmy Kimmel

Ahead of what could be her final formal release, Anita Baker has been conducting a clinic for anybody who thought that r&b was dead.  It is not.  All a skeptic need do is listen to the voice that recently flooded the stage of the Kimmel Live.  Baker sounds exactly the same as you remember her (for those old enough to have heard her recordings the first time out).  No cracks, sputters, nagging injuries, or false starts.  A triumphant return to radio has found her snatching the wigs of vocalists who haven’t learned to hit and hold a note, but would argue they are doing the genre justice.

In short, Baker hasn’t lost a beat.  Anytime she can crash the party with a cover of “Lately” good enough to make you forget the original by Tyrese, which released in 1998 and remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for thirteen weeks, there should be cause for doubters to reexamine their arguments.  Baker’s rendition debuted at Number 10 on the Adult Contemporary Charts as the first single from her forthcoming release, Only Forever.  A subtle balance of keys, bass, and lower bpm transforms the young love ballad into the proper vehicle for her smokey contralto.  The reverberating warmth of her voice is an oasis for those in need of boo-loving music with a bit more class.  Baker swaying on stage as the band begins is surely a sight for sore eyes – many having longed for the days when Miguel was in diapers and hers was still the face beneath the perfectly-coiffed pompadour.  Now privileged to enjoy them both, it is comforting to know that Baker – at one point all but resigned to a jersey in the rafters – will be back onstage, performing new music and old favorites in the months to come.  If Robert Glasper’s recent win for Best R&B Album at this year’s Grammy Awards is any indication, it may be safe to say that the sound of r&b is revolutionizing and reasserting itself.  We’re still waiting on a firm date after Only Forever missed its originally slated release in October–but if the rumors of an imminent release are true, it seems Baker has resurfaced at just the right time.

spotted at SD

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