José James is an artist that has no problem showing love to those who inspire him. In fact, he's dedicated entire albums to those whose music he's admired, including Billie Holiday and Bill Withers. He'll do so once again at the top of next year, only this time he's honoring his contemporary Erykah Badu with his upcoming project On & On. To prepare us for what's to come, he offers a preview of the set with lead single "The Healer."
José's take on the song, which Erykah put forth into the ether on her 2008 album New Amerykah Part One (4th World War), doesn't stray too far from Badu's original. It retains the slowed pace and restrained production choices and subdued delivery (so much so that you can almost see the incense smoke curling in the air as you listen). It does omit the scratched-in samples, though, making this version just slightly more organic in its approach.
The biggest change here is the inclusion of saxophonist Ebban Dorsey, who slides in a nasty solo midway through the song that turns into an all-out jazz jam as he plays alongside piano, drums and synthesizers.
All in all, this "Healer" is a bit less volatile than the experimental sound evoked by Badu. That's not a bad thing, as it doesn't feel like "José James covers Erykah Badu" but more of a thoughtful reinterpretation of a great song.
On & On will offer José's take on more Badu classics — including "Green Eyes," "Didn't Cha Know" and "Bag Lady" — when it arrives on January 20, 2023. Until then, listen to him take on "The Healer" when you press play below.