Martha Wash is a legend. From classic performances on hits such as “It’s Raining Men” to her just as recognizable uncredited lead vocals in tracks such as C&C Music Factory’s “Sweat,” Martha’s reputation is solid gold. Her latest release, “Love and Conflict,” shows that she is not only worthy of her status but that it still holds up even today. It is a rollercoaster of emotion, catchy lyrics and uplifting beats will have you on your feet and singing along during the first listen as it grabs you from the top and never lets go. This begins with the track “Glamour Flows.”
What begins soft picks up quick, with an immediate injection of style with the shake of the maracas. The signature vocals of Martha Wash hit hard when she cries “You know it’s true!” It’s an uplifting track, right down to the smooth beat that picks you up and challenges you to not shake your hips. It’s a tough track to only listen to once, and even tougher not to sing along when you hear “find your style” at the top of each chorus. That’s to say nothing of the incredible instrumentals that bring the uplifting vibe to life, whether it be the elegant piano or funky bass groove that guides the track, you’ll find yourself loving more with each listen. It is followed by “Like Fire,” which strikes a more emotional tone.
The wavy guitars amplify the emotion when she sings “You’re going down with me, if you can’t feel love then we’ll drown in this pool of lust together” in the intro. When the beat kicks up, the emotional weight only intensifies as she pours her heart out in lines such as “so we can feel it, make a pact and mean it.” Like Fire is an emotional tour-de-force, with a lively beat led by upbeat percussion and fantastic surprises in the synths that prop up the gospel aesthetic perfectly. The power of Martha Wash’s vocals is on full display in this track, especially towards the end, making this one a delight.
“Flowers Blossom” is another stand-out track. A different turn from the other tracks, with a powerful vocal performance that can be felt in the chorus. When Martha cries “some hold a grudge, some plan to judge and some let go,” you can hear it coming from her heart, supported only by minimalist instrumentals. They cradle her vocal performance and create the melancholy atmosphere that gives the track its somber gospel aesthetic and unique personality, making it worth the listen.
“Honey My Friend” is a unique track. From the top, the track strikes a different feel with the rambling guitar intro. It adopts a bit of a country aesthetic, especially when the powerful vocals of Martha Wash cry “In my heart, your candle always burns” as it weaves in with her signature gospel style when she sings “thank you for being my friend” when the backup chorus serenades her with “thank you’s.” The track is a tender one filled with genuine emotional gratitude for a fantastic friendship that will leave you smiling by the end of it.
From beginning to end, “Love and Conflict” grabs you by the ears and never lets you go. It is powerful in every sense of the word. The amount of emotional, vocal and inspirational range that is shown in this album makes the entire package enjoyable all the way through. It’s tough to not listen to the entire thing all the way through on your first listen and it’s even harder not to hit “repeat” after it’s all over. Make room in your playlist and check out “Love and Conflict,” it’s already one of the best of the year.