Chaka Khan – Hello Happiness (Diary)
Holy hell and hello happiness, indeed. Bow down to a queen.
Chaka Khan is a living legend, though the number of people who recall her ’70s records with Rufus of her string of ’80s hits is dwindling. Last year, while the music world was mourning the monumental loss of Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan’s turn on stage at Franklin’s funeral was a stunning reminder that all the greats of yesteryear haven’t left us yet. On top of that, she dropped a single and video, “Like Sugar,” that was a surefire summer jam of 2018 and one of the finest moments in her 45-year career.
That single has finally been followed up with a full-length—well, almost, full length, but the seven songs here are more than a full meal. The title track rides the same rollerskate vibe as “Like Sugar,” while “Like a Lady” is a modern take on Studio 54 and “Don’t Cha Know” slips into the kind of slinky grooves at which Rufus excelled. Anyone still thinking Amy Winehouse is irreplaceable is well advised to cue up “Too Hot.” Meanwhile, the Sly and Robbie reggae groove of “Isn’t That Enough” brings out a whole other side of Chaka Khan that could fill an entire record. The British producer known as Switch (M.I.A., Santigold, Major Lazer) puts most other neo-disco producers to shame here, including Daft Punk.
This is only Chaka Khan’s third album of original material in the last 25 years, and her first in the last 12. But in the pantheon of great late-career resuscitations in soul music, this is right up there with Grace Jones’s Hurricane and Mavis Staples’s We’ll Never Turn Back. And she’s not done: the woman who sang backing vocals on Don Juan’s Restless Daughter is currently finishing an album-length tribute album to her old friend Joni Mitchell.
Isn’t that enough? Hell, no. Hello Happiness just leaves us wanting more.
Stream: “Like Sugar,” “Hello Happiness,” “Isn’t That Enough”