The Sugar Water Festival

The late-'90s success of Erykah Badu figuratively opened the door for women who prefer bold, thoughtful R&B to the cleavage-exploiting, azz-shaking approach popularized by lowest-common-denominator hip-hoppers. To date, only a few females have found commercial success by following her example, and maintaining it has proven to be even tougher, as India.Arie and Macy Gray can testify. The Sugar Water Festival is an attempt to goose the movement's momentum by combining Badu's force with that of talented acolyte Jill Scott and rap-pioneer-turned-Chicago-songstress Queen Latifah, who went after a more mature musical constituency on last year's loungey disc The Dana Owens Album. When the three appeared side by side on a recent edition of Good Morning America, they concentrated on collective sing-alongs and consciousness-raising -- a formula that could become tedious over the long haul. But if the performers, who are joined on this bill by Floetry, let their music talk (rather than preach) for them, they have a good chance of extending Badu's legacy, and that of modern soul music in general. The door can still be opened wider. -- Michael Roberts


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