Thursday, August 21, 2008

For the Love of Blue-Eyed Soul

If you are not familiar with the music genre called blue-eyed soul, it is exactly what the name makes you think of. Well, to be precise, it is soul music by Caucasian artists. Some might find the term racist, but I think it works pretty well (at least until we all come to the realization that the color of someone's skin is not as important as the world makes it. We are all human beings, and pigeonholing just doesn't work. Enough editorial on that. ) It's actually a complimentary sort of thing, in my opinion, showing that the love of music transcends racial boundaries. I think it's great that although soul music originated in the African American community, it was embraced by others outside of that community. Since I prefer male blue-eyed soul, lets focus on the male artists in this movement.

Blue-eyed soul is not a new phenomenon. It's actually been around for a while. I would dare to suggest that Elvis was a blue-eyed soul singer. What about the Righteous Brothers? I think yes. Then there was Hall and Oates. No one would argue that George Michael was a very prominent blue-eyed soul artist in the 80s and 90s. Perhaps even some of Elton John's songs evoke the essence of this genre as well. Everybody knows that Boy George had an incredible voice, driving the blue-eyed soul sound of the British 80s pop band Culture Club. Also Tom Jones, although Welsh, definitely has some serious soul vibe going on. British Rick Astley channeled the Motown male crooner sound, and did it excellently in the 90s. So, although when the term crops up, one might start to think of artists like Justin Timberlake as a forerunner, and as much as I love his music, he is not a pioneer in this arena. Probably most people aren't familiar with British musician Paul Weller, a former member of The Jam and The Style Council. This man has a great soul voice, and if The Style Council isn't very R&B/soul-sounding, I don't know what is. The list goes on, including Paul Young, Phil Collins, Mick Jagger and The Rolling Stones music, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Rod Stewart, Michael McDonald, Dan Hartman, Paul Carrack, and others. To me it is clear that R&B and soul music had a huge influence on British popular music, explaining why there are so many British artists with this sound. Boy bands N'Sync, Backstreet Boys (A.J. McLean has a great voice for R&B), and 98 degrees (Nick Lachey is great at the Motown crooner sound) also carved territory in this genre of music.
A special word about Jeff Buckley. When he died, it left a hole in my heart. The term gone too soon definitely applies. His voice was heavenly. He could wail, but he could croon. Songs like "Everybody Here Wants You," "Last Goodbye," "Hallelujah," and "Morning Theft" would be defended by me as blue-eyed soul in a court of law, just on the strength of his vocals, although "Everybody Here Wants You" is the most overtly soulful in its arrangement. I think he would have very successfully recorded a soul album if he had lived longer.

Who are some of my favorites of the newer blue-eyed soul artists? Let's discuss them.

  • Robin Thicke: I would have to say that above and beyond, he is my favorite. I heard the song off his first CD, "When I Get You Alone", I knew there was something going on there. Now some might be a little wary because his father is Alan Thicke, and assume he is just hanging onto his famous father's coattails. Well just listen to him sing, and also listen to R&B and Soul stations and quite a few of the popular songs of several years ago were actually written by him. Now I enjoyed his first CD "Thicke", which was an interesting combination of R&B and hippy-inspired pop music. He even sported a hippy look with the long hair that didn't hide his good looks. I must say I prefer the short hair that he has now. Yes, I am one of the people who bought this CD, although it didn't seem to make much of an impression for the most part. I loved his next CD, "The Evolution of Robin Thicke." I saw the video for "Lost Without U" on VH-1 one morning, and I knew I had to buy that CD. I think it is incredible. Yes he does the more popular and oftimes annoying R&B gimmick of teaming up with a hip-hop artist, but he manages to knock his collaborative song "All Night Long," with 'Lil Wayne, out the park. But he also has some wonderful introspective ballads like "Angel," the aforementioned "Lost Without You," and others. He also has some great mid-tempo songs like "I Wanna Love You Girl," which is a collaboration with one of my favorite producers The Neptunes, and the slower sexy and romantic "I Need Love" and "Teach U a Lesson." 'Can You Believe" is sort of in-between, not really mid-tempo, but not a slow song. But it's a great song, for sure. One of my favorites off this cd is "Complicated." Love the song, and wore it out last fall and into the winter. All the songs off this CD are great. "Cocaine" is a good song, but not a favorite of mine. "Shooter" is a rerelease from his first album, and is very infectiously funky. I'm not surprised that this album went platinum. You go, Robin. His new CD promises to be just as good, if the single "Magic" is representative of it. It has a very old school, Motown feel to it. You can tell I really like this guy, huh. I think it's great that he's happily married to the lovely African-American actress Paula A. Patton.

  • Maroon 5: I can't talk about blue-eyed soul without giving a nod to this group. They have done a great job of combining rock, pop, and soul to develop an infectious signature sound. Adam Levine definitely has the pipes for soul music, and the rich musicianship of the band is representative of the 80s large band sound for R&B music. I heard "Harder to Breathe" and I knew we had a connection. I bought "Songs About Jane" and loved it. Not a bad song on the record, although my favorites are the aforementioned, "This Love," "Sunday Morning," "Shiver," and the "The Sun." They received pretty massive airplay for what seemed like years, and when I was wondering what they were up to, they released their newest album, "It Won't Be Soon Before Long." Definitely refusing to be pigeonholed, this CD is hard to classify. It still has the very prominent blue-eyed soul stylings I love so much, but also has a retro early 80s rock sound like The Tubes and other bands. It is very musical with brass, guitar, bass, drums, and synthesizer, piano, and keyboards. I think that the band decided that they were going to make this album as if it was their last, and the drive and commitment to make a great album shines through. My all-time favorite song off this CD is "If I Ever See Your Face Again," which has pretty naughty lyrics. It's so infectious that you will bounce along to it when it's playing in your car. I'm a little ambivalent about the remake with Rihanna, I must admit. The video is pretty steamy, though. I also love "It Makes Me Wonder," although when I first heard it, I wasn't sure what to think. It has such a different sound, very retro but eclectic. I love it though. The video is great. Adam Levine does know how to bring on the sexy, for sure. I pretty much love all the songs, but "Back at Your Door" stands out because this is straight up an R&B ballad, Motown style. Who couldn't help but take a guy back who shows this kind of passion. This band definitely has made a splash and crossed over into the various genres of rock, pop, and R&B.

  • Justin Timberlake: I won't even get started with him. He's so big that there's no point of going into him. I must say I love love love, "My Love." His continued collaboration with Timbalake has been beyond successful.

  • JC Chasez: For some reason he fell through the cracks, but this guy has a great, incredible soulful voice. He is my favorite N'Sync member, although I also like Justin. I loved his CD Schizophrenic. This album has some of every genre on it, with a serious retro R&B, new wave, and electronic feel (three of my faves). It's also pretty rocky in parts (early80s rock). My alltime favorite off here is "Everything You Want," but "Blowing Me Up With Her Love" is awesome. He does some risky songs like "Some Girls (Dance With Women)," and "All Day Long I Dream About Sex," but I think they pay off. Too bad nobody bought this CD. I hope he hasn't given up on having another CD because I knowthere is a strong fan base who would love to hear more from him.

  • Jamiroquai: This British band channels that late 70s/early 80s funk, big band style of R&B and do it very well. They make you dance in a whole different way from the modern R&B movement. If you want a good taste of their musical offerings, pick up their greatest hits CD. I guarantee you'll like it if you're into that retro funk type of R&B.

  • Remy Shand: He hasn't hit it big that I know of, but if you like your blue-eyed soul very low key and almost jazzy, I think you would like him very much. "Rocky Steady" is the song that recieved a bit of airplay. I think he's a talented guy and hope to hear more from him.

  • Daniel Bedingfield: British musician who is the brother of Natasha Bedingfield. Why she hit it big, but he didn't, I'm not sure. This guy is awesome. He has an incredible voice and great music. He's definitely more into the dance/electronic (and you will want to dance) kind of feel but has some sweet, touching ballads as well.

  • Justin Guarini: I bought his CD based on his musical talents in From Justin, To Kelly (yes I saw it at the movies and I liked it. I wish they had released the soundtrack). This boy can sing. Ok, technically I think he's mixed, but I think he still fits in this category.
Although definitely pop acts, these guys have the blue-eyed soul vibe:
  • John Mayer
  • Teddy Geiger
  • Gavin DeGraw

Let's not forget...

    • Jason Mraz: see an earlier post on this blog. I love him. :)

Ones to watch:

  • Elliot Yamin: he definitely has a great voice. His CD sounds promising.

  • Blake Lewis: the samples I heard of his CD sounded very good. I'll have to pick it up and soon.

  • Ari Gold: haven't heard any of his music, but I'm anxious to hear what he sounds like. I've heard good things about him.

  • One Republic: I got kinda sick of "Apologize" getting played so much on the radio, but the lead singer Ryan Tedder definitely has the voice for R&B/soul music.

  • Taylor Hicks: he has a great old school R&B sound, along the lines of Michael McDonald

To close, I hope you know a little more about blue-eyed soul, and perhaps have decided to dip your feet in the pond, so to speak. I recommend starting with Robin Thicke :)


Blogger Evy said...

What about Michael Bolton - would you consider him Blue Eyed Soul?

9:54 PM  
Blogger Flaming_star said...

And of course, one my originals that I still adore Hall and Oates, who ever did it better than Daryl Hall and he's still hot.
I love Remy Shand, he was a good find. I got some others for you, Marc Broussard, if you've never heard of him, check him out and Janita, she's a chick from Norway she's got a beautiful soulful voice and I've seen her live she is awesome.

10:22 PM  

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