Inspired by its Afrobeat underpinnings, the Beninese singer tackles an album-length cover of the Talking Heads’ 1980 landmark, in the process unearthing hidden rhythmic and emotional nuances. Kidjo’s own track record makes her a natural for such a task, given her expansive vision of African music (to the point that she has often faced the asinine accusation that her music isn’t authentically “African”). And she has plenty of help here, from Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, Blood Orange’s Devonté Hynes, Kanye/Rihanna producer Jeff Bhasker, and the man whose cephalopod-like drumming originally inspired the album, Afrobeat legend Tony Allen.
While she foregrounds the 1980 record’s latent paranoia, social disquiet, and political loathing, Kidjo also imparts a tactile sense of resilience to offset the original’s despair. Her poised and powerful presence fleshes out nuances in Byrne’s lyrics that the precocious singer often seemed to approach cerebrally rather than feel viscerally.