Martha Wash should have had the career Adele has. This is by no means a slam against Adele, her talent, or the hard work she’s put into her craft. But, Martha Wash is just a force of nature who the industry has done dirty for a variety of reasons. If anything, Martha Wash has a career more akin to the also legendary Paul Williams. Both crafted countless songs that are household staples and both have revamped their image after plenty of what could be considered “novelty songs”. I don’t want to spend a lot of time reflecting on her past, because if it’s any indication by her work and public speaking appearances, Wash wants to move forward.
She’s not just “One half of the Weather Girls”, she’s a force of nature and she proves it on her recent outing Love & Conflict. There’s this undeniable sense of class that permeates from the album, starting with dulcet plucking of strings that evoke classical acts like Ella Fitzgerald or Nina Simone before ramping up into a sound of pop-gospel that’s much more synonymous with the sounds of your “Pharrel Williams” or a “Danger Mouse” produced track. Speaking of, the production on this record is as smooth as butter, perfectly mixed to emphasize the obelisk that is Wash’s vocals. She’s able to belt just as powerfully and focused as she’s always been known to do. Martha Wash has come to proclaim “Do not say ‘I’ve still got it’, I’ve never NOT had it”. We would be smart to acknowledge it.
Pop gospel I think has gotten something of a mixed reputation over the recent years. While we’ve had acts like Chance the Rapper and Kanye West implement gospel sounds into their work, they’ve always rung kind of false. Like novelty Christmas ornaments on an oak instead of a pine. Wash’s background began in church choirs and she’s always been vocal about her faith and even her open-mindedness knowing that much of her work has been embraced and adored by the LGBTQ+ community and this is like her victory lap. Tracks like the bombastic opener “Glamour Flows”, or the empowering and emotional nuance of “Soaring Free” to a loving sendup of her former pop days with “Don’t Forget My Name”, the work is just as entertaining as it is an introspective dissection of Wash’s own career and how she’s gotten to this point in her life.
There’s plenty of mainstream accessibility to a sound like this especially since the 80s/90s auditory trappings are really having a moment in the sun and I’ve always been a strong supporter of younger generations doing the research to end up how we got here musically and Wash’s influence cannot be understated. The near album closer “Honey My Friend” is an intimate thank you to her fans both past and present and if anything we should be thanking her for bestowing such a wonderful album on a weary world. Martha Wash should have the career Adele does, and it’s high time we give it to her.