|part of:||Grammy Award: Best R&B Album nominees (number: 2003 winner) (order: 45)|
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All eyes were on the 2002 release of Voyage to India, as it followed India.Arie's accomplished debut Acoustic Soul, which had redefined the neo-soul genre in 2001. Bolstered by its single, Brown Skin, Acoustic Soul reached the US top 10, and was nominated for seven Grammy Awards. The Atlanta-based artist's blending of hip hop, soul and folk was as subtle as it was inspired. Low-key, intimate and, in direct contrast to the frequently overblown diva strand of RnB, Arie's career gently and successfully purred away, as if Joni Mitchell had been reinvented as an urban singer.
Voyage to India was a strong follow-up. In 18 short months, its maker had matured. Although Arie often sings like a love-struck family-centered teenager, her vocals are confident and assured. This album's 12 tracks are linked with short acoustic interludes: Growth, Healing, and Gratitude. Arie's straightforward sincerity stops this all being mawkishly or new age.
The album's lead single, Little Things, was based on a subtle phrase from the 1977 track Hollywood by Rufus and Chaka Khan. Like everything here, the lift is discreet and in the best taste. The Truth, a simple reflection on the contradictions of love, is arguably the album's finest moment. Cataloguing the reasons she loves her partner, she lists, among others, the way her man treats his mother, before concluding, "Love from personal to universal, when most of all, it's unconditional." When the digital beats step up a little on Slow Down, it comes almost as a surprise. Get It Together - subsequently to be heard in the 2004 animated film Shark Tale - is sweet and touching.
Arie won two Grammys for Voyage to India - Best Urban/Alternative Performance for Little Things and Best R&B Album. It was compared to the best work of her Motown predecessors Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. She, like them, had complete artistic freedom at the label. Although it never really breaks a sweat and at times it sounds a little clinical - The Times once said that her records sounded as if they had been conceived in a laboratory - it's a swooning, mellow hour in the company of a true talent. Supported by her freewheeling live performances, Voyage to India reached the US top 10, and, while only scraping to 89 in the UK, it bolstered India.Arie's reputation as one of the finest singers and writers of the early 00s.