What Do You Think Next Incarnation Of Soul Music Will Sound Like?


In an interview with DJ-turned-crooner Mayer Hawthorne, the Village Voice's Jason Newman states that the singer  "may seem an unlikely to choice to help usher soul music into its next incarnation" because he's, well, white and he's allegedly breaking the rules. He's a good singer, sure, and has a sound that fits into the loose definition of soul that floats around in the ether of both this interview and the ongoing debate about what is and isn't soul music. And though it could be easy (indeed it is tempting) to delve into issues of race here, what about the music?

When I listen to someone like Mayer Hawthorne I don't hear anything remotely akin to progression. I hear doo-wop tinged harmonies over hip hop beats and singer whose vocals are closer to average than anything. Not that he's unlistenable or anything, and I'm sure he's totally up front about his indebtedness to those who sang soul music (much better and with more nuance) before him, but come on. There's nothing wildly innovative or even all that exciting about what he's doing in the genre.
And then I realized that after all these false starts and the piles of wishful marketing stinking up my speakers that I have no clue what I expect the next incarnation of soul music will sound like. So, SoulBouncers, you tell me: What's next for soul music? Who do you think is really pushing soul music into a new phase? And, what does that phase sound like?

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13 Responses

  1. For several decades now the gap between what true music fans know as Soul and the sludge that record companies spit out under the banner of 'urban music' has grown so wide it threatens to crush not only the musicians, but the music itself. You guys championed Foreign Exchange sometime ago and I would love to see that kind of layered craftsmanship return to the forefront.
    Sadly, Soul has become the stepchild of R&B and hip-hop and anyone who attempts to bring it back is going to have to avoid the yoke of bootylicious/sex pervert exploitation. And that, my people, is most likely going to be a white guy.

  2. I love the sound, but I'mma agree with another Bouncer that Mayer's voice is just a bit too soft to carry his songs. There's an essential quality that's missing to his voice that feels like soul to me.
    Honestly,I'd welcome a new wave of afrofuturism. Not exactly the bambata retread (cough Common), but where Janelle Monae is going. Funky, electronic but not electro. But anchored by a great, unprocessed voice.
    That or maybe soul can somehow connect back to africa more obviously. Fela Kuti is suddenly everywhere, maybe more afrobeat kind beats? Almost a world music-meets-soul thing?

  3. Agreed. There's nothing new here. Soul should be progressive, and this trend of 60s retro will eventually pass away as the fad it is.
    As a true blue-eyed soul singer, I don't see what Mayer's doing as anything I can't get by diggin into an old stack of Smokie Robinson records. The next wave of soul will be unleashed with new sounds, not recycled ones.

  4. R&B should be the step child to SOUL. I think running to distinctions is a recipe for disaster. We should cater what's good to a case by case basis and herald those that appeal to our ears. For example , why can't people say hey I love "Tom Boy" by Electric Wire Hustle, and keep it moving. In the days of Motown music was more "singlecentric" instead of a spreading a majority of artist creative arc to thin with entire 16 track LP's.

  5. I so agree with you. The music is nice but he's not progressing anything like say I.G. Culture did with broken beat when it comes to soul. It bothers me when the press tries to paint white artists are progressive when they are pretty average.

  6. I come from a time (considered Old Skool) where there was REAL R&B/Soul music (e.g. Motown, Stax, Philadelphia International, etc.) where one could tell someone just by their style. There was a feeling that went deep to the soul (no pun intended) and caused you to react to the sound even if you were sitting. Today's so called R&B/Soul music is either watered-down or so full of beats that you don't know whether to fall asleep or break a leg trying to dance. Even more important is the words. Everyone is sleeping with each other before the courtship begins. I find that guys are so afraid to show how they miss, long for or love someone without feeling that they are weak or a punk. I find that R&B/Soul has lost the one thing that made the Genre which is: RYTHEM & BLUES. There is a LARGE lack of it. If it must be someone White, please study Michael McDonald or sometimes George Michaels. I must say that I long for the days of REAL gut, foot-stomping, emotional R&B/Soul music. Makes me glad that GOD put me here when he did so that I could experience REAL R&B/Soul music before it was acquired and changed. Peace!

  7. i honestly feel like he's doing something interesting with the genre. it might not be progressive and amazingl but it's definitely something new fresh and interesting. absolutely worth listening to. if you're in the d.c. area he's playing this sunday (october 4th) at DC9. i'm definitely going to be there to see what the hype's about.

  8. NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Im sorry - LISTEN - im not black, im eurasian (half white, half asian) - But let me tell you, i have been listening to soul music since i was a little ankle biter (3 years OLD) and cant nooooooooooooooobody sing soul like a black person - reason being, is its in the tone of the voice - Even if someone has like a quater black in them, african vocal chords are unlike the rest - theres a certain tone - when i think soul - i think A BLACK man or woman - dont you??? CMON!! But on the flipside - if they are like JON B or Teena Marie who just have that soul without trying - then THAT is an EXCEPTION to the rule. other than that, im not tryna see soul music bein exploited anymore hey.

  9. I agree that Mayer Hawthorne is not bringing anything 'new' to soul music, and i also agree that his material is pretty decent but his voice leaves a lot to be desired.
    There are a number of artists pushing the so-called boundries but none of them are what i would call mainstream. Artists like Janelle Monae, Muhsinah, FE, Electric Wire Hustle are taking things forward whilst staying true to the roots of soul music.

  10. Part of the future might be white people, but not Mayer Hawthorne - he's pastiche of something that happened a long time ago without really adding anything fresh to it like Amy Winehouse did. The future is gonna be soulful music inspired not only by hip hop but by funk, old R&B and soul and club music like house & electro. I think people like Sam Sparro, Mike Posner and Colin Munroe are soulful in their approach but taking all those ingredients, mixing them together and coming up with something fresh and new from it.

  11. And this is why I love y'all bouncers. I don't know how I slept on Electric Wire Hustle. Thank you for opening my ears up once again. 🙂

  12. I dig Mayer's album and the Foreign Exchange album (I own both). I don't get how Foreign Exchange gets slept on and Mayer gets pushed to the heaven's by the hipster crowd.

  13. In summary, Soul had its biggest blow with the rise of disco and hip hop in the late 70's, early 80's. This is when production became more DJ oriented, vs. musician/artist oriented. Many technical advances were made in recording (drum machines, samplers, etc...) that allowed non-musician folks to make recorded creations at a budget(notice I didn't say music) and with less personnel. They were able to quickly clear unprecedented profits, and turn most resources to radio programming. This was seen with SugarHill Gang. I remember that this was the first song I've ever heard that was played several times every hour on the hour when it first came out. They practically reprogrammed the listeners to appreciate the product that would not have been as well received if it were in regular programming scheduling. At this point, the majors had to scuffle to meet this new demand. Since most CEO's and A/R folks were historically artist/music conessiuers or former musicians, many of them thought it was a fad and didn't take it seriously, so many heads rolled and they were replaced by finance/accountant types only interested in profits. This is where our music got "dumbed down" and sold out. The paradigm shift was profit like any other product. No longer was focus on art, and now we and they are paying for it. As a musician, I saw many opportunities turn sour thru the years. And like many others were forced to do other things to maintain a living. I'm toying with the idea of returning cuz its in my heart. I do see some pretty new talent, but its all individual based. Where are the bands? It was the bands that moved the people, set the tone and kept the artistry in check. Sorry for rambling Im out. Peace.