Understanding Emily’s D+Evolution

I want to talk about an album that I see not only as the best album to date by bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding, but as one of the best albums of the 2010s from any artist.

Esperanza Spalding’s Emily’s D+Evolution (pronounced by Spalding as “D plus evolution”) is simultaneously a tour de force in groove-heavy, sophisticated yet broadly appealing songwriting, and also a concept album rich in theatricality and lyrical metaphors.

It appealed to Spalding’s jazz fans while continuing to grow her already diverse audience. It also has a deeply…