India.Arie has always made soul music for the soul — soothing and uplifting your spirit. But the Grammy-winning R&B artist — whose “Worthy” tour hits the Beacon Theatre on Sunday — isn’t always the saint you might expect her to be.
In fact, on her “Worthy” album, which she released in February, Arie curses in a song for the very first time in her 18-year recording career.
“It’s funny, it feels empowering in a certain way,” says Arie, 43, of dropping the S-bomb in “Coulda Shoulda Woulda.” “Because I feel like, as an artist, people put you in little boxes . . . I’m opinionated and I’m sarcastic and I got a lot of black-girl swag. We can be all of it.”
But since making her debut with 2001’s “Acoustic Soul,” featuring the self-love anthem “Video,” Arie’s music has been associated more with enlightenment and positivity. Still, like all of us, she has her moments.
“Anybody who thinks I’m always positive is not being realistic, ’cause who’s always positive?” says Arie, who is now based in Nashville, Tenn., after living in New York for several years. “Yes, I get negative. I get very negative. If you’re really listening to my music, you hear the push and pull of it . . . I have an alter ego — I call her Nonchalant. And when she comes out, I be like, ‘I warned you.’ ”
There’s a higher purpose and intention, though, in Arie calling her latest LP “Worthy.” The folky title tune spreads the message that “every one of us is worthy.” So what’s the secret to knowing your own worth?
“Look at someone that you really, really love and what they’re worth, and you’re worth the same thing,” says Arie. “And even if it’s hard to accept that, it’s a work in progress. It’s like working out. Your stomach doesn’t get flat from one situp. You keep doing the work.”
Reflecting on “Acoustic Soul” — which went double platinum and was nominated for seven Grammys, including Album of the Year — Arie feels awed by her accomplishment.
“I look back and go, ‘Damn, I was just, like, 20 when I wrote this!’ ” she says. “I feel like a completely different person [now]. That was, like, a little-girl me.”
But the same issues about beauty and body image that Arie addressed in “Video” still exist, she says — especially for female artists.
“I think they’ve gotten worse [with] the prevalence and the normalization of cosmetic surgery,” she says. “Like, it’s just normal now to get butt implants, which sounds like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit to me . . . You have artists in their late 20s with multiple plastic surgeries [done] on their bodies. Multiple. A lot of women look like actual cartoons. It’s scary.”