Black Pumas – “Chronicles of a Diamond” Review: Setting the Standard for 21st Century Soul

black pumas

The year 2023 has been a treasure trove for soul music enthusiasts in the United States. From Durand Jones‘ compelling solo debut with “Wait Til I Get Over,” paying homage to his Southern roots, to Jalen Ngonda’s distinct vocals reminiscent of Smokey Robinson’s sweet falsetto during Motown’s golden era, and Gabriels breathing new life into the genre with an uplifting gospel touch. These artists have proven that soul music can still inspire and resonate in these turbulent times.

Among these notable names, Black Pumas stand out as one of the most successful. Hailing from Austin, Texas, this duo has been making waves in the soul music scene. Their 2019 self-titled debut album introduced discerning music fans to their remarkable talent. Their hit song, “Colors,” became a viral anthem that celebrated life’s simple pleasures during a divisive era. Their achievements led to worldwide tours and multiple Grammy nominations, culminating in a virtual performance at President Joe Biden’s 2021 inauguration.

Chronicles of a Diamond marks a more mature and expansive offering compared to their debut album. The album continues to blend rock’n’roll, jazz, hip-hop, and soulful vibes, which have become Black Pumas’ trademark. The circumstances and dynamics between the duo, Eric Burton and Adrian Quseada, have significantly evolved. The two met when Burton was a busker, and Quesada was a producer in search of a unique personality and singer to elevate the project. Much of their debut album was recorded and written before Burton even stepped into the studio.

This time, Burton played a more integral role in the album’s creation from the outset. He challenged himself to move beyond his role as a performer and become a recording artist. Despite battling insecurities and doubts, he aimed to make a meaningful contribution at every stage of the process. Burton cites the song “Ice Cream (Pay Phone),” which he revisited after a decade, as an early triumph that boosted his confidence and introduced playful elements, including the twinkling siren call of a van, into his compositions.

Black Pumas - Chronicles of a Diamond

What sets Black Pumas apart is their ability to infuse each composition with their genuine, authentic selves. Tracks like “More Than A Love Song” are earth-shaking anthems, with the catchiness of their first album combined with a grittier edge in their polished production. “Mrs. Postman” pays tribute to blue-collar workers who keep the world moving, set to a jazz-infused hip-hop beat. “Angel” begins as an acoustic ditty and gradually transforms into lush Beatles territory by the song’s end.

Throughout the album, you can hear Burton’s growing confidence, with his untapped potential and room for further growth evident. In this latest soul revival, Black Pumas undoubtedly lead the way and continue to captivate their audience.