Well, I don’t think anyone predicted this one. Usually, Vogue follows a pattern of the cover star having something to promote — a movie, an album, or, if we’re right about Gisele popping up sometime this year, Life After Divorce — but the accompanying story is really more about Erykah Badu’s aura, her enduring fame, her $1 online Covid concerts, her store, her hobbies (she’s a doula), her forthcoming bespoke marijuana blend… things that have already happened, rather than what’s coming; it’s like checking in with an old friend who’s very famous but also not in our faces all the time. That less transactional feel is a good direction for Vogue. Erykah Badu has an extremely iconic, unmistakable sense of style — a wise choice for a fashion magazine that lately doesn’t always seem as interested in fashion as it does in fame.

The mood of the piece is captured pretty well herre:

Badu greets me at the door in a dramatic silk Libertine caftan printed with amusing pictures of monkeys in space suits and leads me past her recording studio to the living area, where two larger-than-life Malian brass busts have glowing sticks of incense sprouting from their heads. The fireplace casts shadows on vintage furniture, including a throne-like peacock love seat and a retro-​futurist egg pod chair. In the corner, an upright piano is buttressed by a stack of vintage Louis Vuitton trunks. “Alexa, play wind chimes,” says Badu, setting the mood.

That last sentence gave me the GIGGLES. The whole thing is a well-crafted tribute to the eccentricities that have made her indelible. That said, Erykah is not without some controversy. For all the warm, wonderful vibes of the profile — and the cover — it ignores a chunk of her Wikipedia page: She has expressed support of a sort for Bill Cosby (“If he’s sick, why would I be angry with him?”), been accused of anti-Semitism (she once noted she sees good in everyone, even Hitler), and made public statements in support of R. Kelly. In 2019. Well past the sell-by date on any possible presumption of his innocence, in my opinion. I’m not trying to reduce her to that, especially because she comes off more like someone who thinks she’s engaging in revolutionary positivity or empathy than anything. But knowing it — and it often comes up in discussions of her — makes it all the more noteworthy that Vogue’s piece does not so much as HINT at any of it. They don’t tiptoe around it; they give it all a very wide berth. It’s all smiles, no complications, no heft, no risk of a sound bite that could come back to snap at them all.

[Photo: Jamie Hawkesworth/Vogue, story by Chioma Nnadi/Vogue; the March 2023 issue of Vogue is on newsstands nationwide Feb. 21]