Trying To Get To You

Thursday, July 05, 2007

When Soul Isn't Soulful

With the ascent of Amy Winehouse I’ve begun to see soul acts promoted in various places to a greater degree than in the recent past. One such act is Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators, a Finnish band led by an American soul singer, Nicole Willis. I have been hearing good things about them, but I’m sorry to write that their new album, Keep Reaching Up, is a big disappointment. It is music that approximates the sound of soul; vaguely funky drums, chunky rhythm guitar, anthemic horn lines punctuated by Willis’ retro-soul vocals. However, for a soul album to be successful, it needs to actually be soulful, and in this department the album is thoroughly lacking. There is little to no emotional resonance to be found here – nothing truly moving, affecting or sexy. Rather, it is a soul album for a lounge, something vaguely akin to musical wallpaper for a upscale bar or club while having a cocktail.

I look forward to hearing new soul artists emerge in the wake of Amy Winehouse’s success, but I hope that they get that the key to soul isn’t in approximately the sound of soul – it’s in actually laying bare your soul and sharing yourself with whoever is listening.

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