Soul singer Ledisi makes a basic declaration near the end of “Pieces of Me,” the title track of her new album: “I’m a woman.” She sings the affirmation a few times, for good measure: “I’m a woman” — neither shouted nor whispered, with a few notes of piano and a slight echo for minimal effect.
It’s a straightforward statement of self-realization in a song and album that are about coming to grips with the multiplicity of female identity. That simplicity renders power: Where a less disciplined artist might have gone for a full-throated, orchestral gospel exclamation, the New Orleans-born, Oakland-bred singer with the Nigerian first name makes a statement, period.
On her sixth album (depending how you count them), Ledisi — sounding at times like Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin or Erykah Badu, and looking like Janelle Monáe as Billie Holliday — explores different pieces of herself: the libido (“Coffee,” “So Into You”); the ego (“Hate Me,” “Shut Up”); the heart (the Jaheim duet “Stay Together”).
“Pieces of Me” enlists multiple collaborators, including Chuck Harmony, Rex Rideout and Salaam Remi, to mixed effect. I have to wonder what Ledisi could do with Rick Rubin and Paul Epworth, Adele’s producers on “21.” The deployment of clichéd lyrics and programmatic rhythm tracks undermines her message of determined individualism.