Trying To Get To You

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Soul Is Not Nostalgia

Nostalgia: A sentimental longing for something in the past (Webster’s)

There was an item in Jon Pareles’ New York Times review of last week’s Amy Winehouse show that I haven’t been able to get past. He wrote that if Winehouse was a “purely an old-fashioned soul singer, she’d just be a nostalgia act.” I couldn’t help but think when reading that line, why is someone who draws upon soul “nostalgic,” and bands like the Strokes, who draw upon 70’s New York punk and proto-punk bands like Richard Hell & The Voidoids, aren’t? Why aren’t the Killers a nostalgia act, given their aping of 80’s new wave? Given the lack of technical innovation in rock in general for the past 2 decades, what the hell is (or isn’t) nostalgic?

It’s hard for me to imagine people being nostalgic for a time they didn’t live in. Amy Winehouse’s album is appealing to people because it connects with them, occurs for them as emotionally authentic, and just plain sounds good. I’m a believer in the possibility of soul coming back in a modern context – not because the 60’s or 70’s were “better,” but because at its best, soul music connects simply, directly and intensely. It's music that gets to the heart of what it is to be a human being; to love, to struggle, to win and to lose. It might have a piano, a horn section and play in 4/4 time, but that doesn't make it nostalgia.

1 comment:

craig said...

it may seem funny, but I know the exact feeling you're describing. I'm 25, and most of the music I listen to is older than me by a longshot. I've found myself particularly drawn to the psych rock of the late 60s for the exact feeling you describe. It takes me someplace else entirely when I listen, albeit to a time I've never experienced outside of books, documentaries, and music. It's a sentiment that shouldn't exist, this rootless nostalgia, but it's certainly a very reel thing to me.


PS. people not calling the strokes a nostalgia act tend not to be all that familiar with the music of the voidoids and the velvet underground. I myself went ga-ga over them until I discovered the truly innovative music they were aping. Julian Casablancas' entire vocal strategy book was written by Lou Reed in 1966. Spot on observation