D’Angelo has long been an expert at making songs that groan and simmer with perfectly seasoned passion. It’s the zing in his “Brown Sugar,” the startling pop of his “Chicken Grease” that keeps us dancing when we should know better to put the spit guard on just in case. Combined with the mystique that comes with having only released three albums over nearly as many decades, is it any wonder why the world stops whenever he decides to show face again?
Five years removed from “Unshaken”—the gruff western-themed single originally exclusive to the Rockstar video game Red Dead Redemption 2—D’Angelo reappears on another soundtrack, this time to serve up some psych-soul realness. “I Want You Forever,” a single from musician and filmmaker Jeymes Samuel’s latest film, The Book of Clarence, ambles through a cosmic love based around an earworm that slowly becomes a mantra. The longing in that hook (“All I wanna say is that I love you so much/I don’t wanna be without you/I want you forever”) grows more profound as the rest of the production unfurls around it. Creamy bass riffs flow into synth twinkles that all spill onto orchestral violins and horns, D’Angelo and Samuel’s styles blurring into something akin to Sly and the Family Stone and Hans Zimmer blasting through speakers behind the pearly gates.
These rhythms are hardly adventurous—look closely and you can see the bones of a Black Messiah leftover in here—but it’s hard to resist when the arrangement feels this good. Those pangs even inspire Jay-Z to put down the stock portfolios for a second and unspool one of his most somber and vulnerable verses in years. “Life don’t taste the same without you/Tears in my champagne ’bout you,” he tells a nameless lover, the whisper of his halting flow causes his words to streak like a tear. It may not be the most groundbreaking D’Angelo song ever, but “I Want You Forever” meanders through familiar feelings with cosmic grace.