Popular music goes through its cycles, just like anything else. I look around, and it seems that blue-eyed British soul has once again come to the surface. The last time I remember this happening big time, was around the mid- to late-’80s, when the coolest music was coming from England, and everything had to be stamped with passion and neo-soul. The airwaves were ruled by the likes of Simply Red, The Style Council, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, The Blow Monkeys, Paul Young, Boy George, Alison Moyet, Phil Collins, Prefab Sprout…everything was redolent of Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin, and everyone wanted to be a smooth operator.
I can see where the groundwork has been laid for a recent rise in British White Soul. With the exception of some hold-outs, black music has gone all Money, Gats, and Ho’s a long time ago. A lot of White music is taking a Luddite approach, and the jug band look rules the indie coda today. Dance music is ruled by an inane “wub-wub-wub” aesthetic.
So, it seems only natural that we’re being treated to a stylized white-boy soul, mostly from out of England once again. There seems to be a subconscious, subcultural tremor, whereby white and black music alike are in crisis. Young Caucasian men are attempting to construct a spurious black body and regeneration of culture to signify…I’m not sure.
I like it! But, I have a bit of a “here we go again” feeling. And, it’s funny that back in the day, soul music was the sound of an individual broken by loss or desire. A true wailing Soul, finding release and purification from some essentially tragic situation, usually involving a woman. Now, soul has become a token of strength, a surge of being. White boys (and oh yes, I’m one too, despite my Robert Johnson avatar) take an empathetic pride in the baptism by fire of their soul heroes. I think of Jack Kerouac’s wish that he “were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night.”
Anybody else notice this? Comments? Are you refreshed by the likes of these young soul rebels, or is it a travesty of soul? Soul-ed out, or just plain fun?
Ain’t there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?