The best parts of "A Love Surreal" warrant the increased attention. In "Back to Love" he flatters a date's shoes over a bubbling funk groove, while the squirmy "West Side Girl" demonstrates how completely Bilal has ingested the work of Prince. (Later, the tasty jazz-guitar licks in "Winning Hand" nod to a more unlikely inspiration: Steely Dan.)
The album washes near the end with a series of spacey slow jams, but then Bilal clears away the atmospheric clutter for "Butterfly," a stark ballad built around his soaring falsetto and rippling piano by recent Grammy winner Robert Glasper. "The struggle makes you fly," Bilal sings, and he's in a position to know.
"A Love Surreal"
Two and a half stars (out of four)