Today, Meshell Ndegeocello is debuting on Jezebel the video for her twangy cover of Ralph Tresvant’s simmering new jack swing classic “Sensitivity.” In a quietly radical decision, Ndegeocello keeps the gender-specific nouns of the original song in place, so that she sings things like, “You need a man with sensitivity, a man like me...” When Jezebel talked to her about the decision to faithfully cover the song in a wide-ranging conversation we had with her about her covers album Ventriloquism and career, this is what the out artist had to say:
I mean, I’m called “sir” all the time, but if you know me, I’m a fragile flower. I forget that I’m a tatted up, braided, black person. I look like a dude. And sometimes I’m treated as such. I’m very aware of those realities. Also I love that song. Men need to have a conversation. What does it mean to be a man? I think we’re on a precipice right now. I just want to ask some other questions. What is it to be a compassionate human being in society and not be so influenced by our eyes? To really take time before we judge a person?
Ventriloquism executive producer Alison Riley had this to say about the accompanying clip, which was directed by Cass Bird:
As a counterpoint to “Waterfalls,” this video will move quickly, be filled with emotion, joy, movement, grand gestures and small moments of tenderness. The cast will focus on faces and identities that are less conventional, less celebrated, often misunderstood and depicts them at their most vital, with each other, standing in where society has created norms that don’t apply. We see people dancing, wider images of movement and convivium, and smaller moments of tenderness, both reflecting what sensitivity means – to each other, with each other, for each other, and where it hasn’t been shown before.
Ventriloquism is out now and you should listen to it because it’s really fuckin’ good.