Lenny Kravitz gets angry in only the most Lenny Kravitz way possible: with a high-pitched “hoooo,” some funky bass and his typically über-passionate vocal delivery. Nearly every track on his 11th album, Raise Vibration – at least those that aren’t his signature love songs – seems like he intended it to be an anthem for resistance in the Trump era. “Who Really Are the Monsters?” is a noticeably Prince-like electro-funk jam that finds Kravitz singing “The war won’t stop as long as we keep dropping bombs” and “Start communicating.” The gentle piano ballad “Here to Love” is a plea for unity (“There’s no more segregation/When you’ve seen the light”) with a catchy, urgent melody and one of his most striking vocal performances in recent years. And “It’s Enough” is a slow-building soul number that owes an obvious debt to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?” both in terms of groove and theme, as he questions, “What’s that going down in the Middle East?/Do you really think it’s to keep the peace?” His message throughout is to question authority.
But what makes Raise Vibration more than just Professor Kravitz orating about the world’s ills is how he never forsakes catchy melodies for seriousness. His language is cutting (“It’s enough, and we all are just getting fucked” he sings on the latter track) but he presents it in a sweet, catchy way that’s easy to digest.
He wears his influences on much more than his sleeves throughout – he sampled Michael Jackson for the background vocals on the soulful “Low” – but even when you think you hear obvious echoes of Bootsy Collins’s bass or Pink Floyd’s keyboards on a song like “Johnny Cash,” a personal piece of nostalgia that finds Kravitz playing every instrument except steel guitar, there’s something about it that’s still overwhelmingly Lenny. In fact it’s only when he tries newer sounds, like a light trap beat on the otherwise Stevie Wonder–like album closer “I’ll Always Be Inside Your Soul,” that he stumbles a little. Mostly, it’s Kravitz’s signature blend of rock and soul, love and social outrage, only this time with a little more bite.