Asa
Beautiful Imperfection

Released in the United Kingdom last April, this Paris-born Nigerian soul singer’s new album is, true to its title, a thing of beauty — a socially conscious, rhythmically sophisticated record inspired by, but not overly indebted to, torchbearers such as Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and Lauryn Hill.

“Be My Man,” the first single from “Beautiful Imperfection,” is buoyed by a tricked-up neo-Motown arrangement akin to those heard on recent recordings by Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse. “Why Can’t We” is impelled by a hiccuping ska backbeat, but “Broda Ole,” one of three songs sung in Yoruba, is even catchier, thanks to its galloping rhythms and unstoppable chorus. Here again, Lily Allen — or Diana Ross, for that matter — would be proud, or at least induced to smile.

Other tracks, such as the reggae-inflected “Maybe,” find Asa in a more searching — and global — frame of mind. “There never used to be / This much attention to security / Until the terror and catastrophe,” she sings, her languid alto and the loping rhythms that bear it along belying the anxiety conveyed in her lyrics. Elsewhere, over an ominous chorus of horns and a nagging snare drum, she laments, “I feel like we’re not angry enough / That while we wait, time’s ticking away.”

Ironically enough, Asa (pronounced “Asha”) records for a label called Naive. And yet as evidenced by zingers such as “Why is it so much religions yet there’s so little love?,” there’s nothing in the least bit puerile about this young woman or her irrepressible, humanity-minded pop.

— Bill Friskics-Warren

Recommended Tracks

“Why Can’t We,” “Maybe,” “Broda Ole”