Pardon my language, but Martha Wash is a f**king saint, or maybe an angel in disguise. We’re talking about a woman who started off as a daughter of devout Christians who at a young age developed an affinity for music just as much as she did for people. Taking actions against C+C Music Factory for lack of vocal credits, an outspoken LGBTQ+ ally, a spokesperson for services for the autism community and she even started her own record label to help passed-on aspiring musicians a chance to carve out their own musical identity, just as she had years ago.
You get the sense that if you even referred to her as I did in the beginning she’d brush it off and remain humble. Her talent is immeasurable, and god is it wonderful to hear her return with Love and Conflict. With to-date, 15 number one songs to date, let’s try and do that again because this album is stacked with absolute bangers. Experimenting with a variety of sounds across her eclectic career you get your fair share of the gospel, pop, electronic, and each is executed with a level of confidence that Wash has carried with her as far back as being a member of “The Weather Girls” where I’m sure many know her from. “Honey be yourself, you’re feeling good and looking fine” from the opener “Glamour Flows” is probably the closest thing to a thesis this album has besides the numerous statements of finding your own style, something Wash is still practicing as she preaches.
Alternating between belting showstoppers, classically infused gospel ballads and sometimes mixing the two like the slow burn “Like Fire” that sees her starting slow as the track picks up to such heights you honestly forget this started as it did. The sense of escalation each song has should be studied as Wash takes us through such highs and lows even when the lyrics are as consistently uplifting as they are across these eight tracks. She makes each word count and it’s always dripping with a sense of intimacy, you’ll be begging to hear these performed live whenever that is.
This record is the perfect tonic to a difficult year we’ve had and it’s highly reflected lyrically with Wash’s hopes to rise up above a needlessly complicated world and she even closes the album with her own version of Daft Punk’s victory lap track “Touch” with her own electronic-infused encore “Rise and Shine.” It’s a fitting ending that sends the record out on a high note as even the briefest moment of Wash breathing after an amazing drop carries the weight of such mythos for a woman larger than life and a voice that’s somehow even larger. “Love is to be free, free yourself with me and be yourself baby” is such an apt way to close things off as this might be one of the most wholesome listening experiences of the year. She may be well past needing to belt “Everybody Dance Now!” but her pleas for love and fun are no less powerful.