India.Arie extols positive vibe on latest album
Jim Cooper/associated press
When Indie.Arie broke up with what she thought would be her lifetime love, she was saddened, angry, confused and hurt and spent the next four years unleashing her emotions through song.
But those who pick up her latest album, Testimony, Vol. 1: Life & Relationship, won’t hear any of the bitterness she once harboured. Instead, in what has become India.Arie’s philosophy, she manages to find the positive, even in a devastating split. Instead of songs about a no-good man or falling into despair, India sings about the power of forgiveness, the appreciation of a past relationship and even learning to love being alone.
“If you don’t learn your lessons, then you are only hurting yourself,” says the 30-year-old singer, sporting a newly shorn head.
“For the sake of being a better person, I took that relationship and relationships in general and just looked at it from every angle for three years, and wrote a whole bunch of songs about it,” she says. “I think when people write those songs that are really bitter and people are bitter, it’s because they’re dealing with the surface.”
India’s ability to dig deep paid off big commercially — it earned the Grammy winner her first No. 1 album debut last week, with sales of more than 160,000. In addition, Testimony, her third album, has garnered mainly positive reviews.
Still, even some of the most glowing notices about her album contain a familiar dig about India — that she’s a bit too optimistic.
In a particularly negative review, New York Daily News critic Jim Farber complained that “you can’t get through a single stanza of her lyrics without being harangued with some lesson or encouragement, served up for our own good.” Meanwhile, a recent article in Essence magazine pondered whether India was too uplifting for her own good.
The critique may be the only thing that can threaten India’s positive vibe, which extends even to the jewelry she wears — on this day, she was sporting a bracelet comprised of the definition of words like “wisdom” and “destiny.”
“I keep reading these reviews of my album and they’re saying that it’s optimistic and `How does she come out unscathed’ and they’re like, real cynical, sarcastic about it,” says the singer, visibly annoyed.
“I keep trying to explain to people, it’s not about being unscathed. I’m not unscathed ... Obviously I’ve been heartbroken,” she says. “But the thing about it is that I chose to take the time to dive really deep to understand the lesson instead of sitting on the surface and blaming. I don’t want to be bitter. I want to learn how to love better and better and better.”