― gareth, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I get very confused about the concept of "soul". Some people tell me
that black people singing about their troubles in 60s Detroit
is "soul". Then some other people tell me that the dire pit of
wibbling twee that is Track & Field is "soul". Both of these concepts
can't be true, or can they?
I think the problem partly lies with the word "soul". It's one of
those concepts, like "zen" or "cool" that the harder you try to pin
down a defintion, the further you get from the actual concept.
Does "soul" signify "deep feeling, or emotion"? Or does it
signify "integrity"? I'm still not *entirely* convinced
that "integrity" is even truly neccessary for great music, which is
the endless complaint about why middle class artists lack "soul".
No one likes to be *lied* to in music... but then again, isn't all
music fundamentally a lie? No matter how deep the emotion that
triggered the muse that triggered the song, is that emotion still
real, still true, still happening when the song is finished, when the
song is sung, when the song is performed...
What constitutes a "lie" anyway? Isn't the whole point of being a
great artist the ability to fake things? To fake emotions, as in
above. Isn't a novelist a faker, because those events, those things
didn't actually *happen*. Does a song have to be true in order to be
great? Or does it just have to be able to *resonate* with the truth
in the listener's hearts?
Class comes up again and again on this board... this goes along with
what I was saying on the "extreme beliefs" thread. Class does not
necessarily include or exclude great music or "soul" (whatever that
is) in music. Conflict and emotion are not the sole perserves of any
I know, I'm rambling right now, but I've been giving this "how
important is the concept of 'integrity' in music" idea a lot of
thought lately, and I'm trying to put my own ideas into order.
― masonic boom, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
"Pure. We like to think our music is pure and hopefully honest.
Soul. It has soul, soul's not a form, it's not a particular sound,
we're not going to try and explain it here, but soul's always pure
and can only be honest. We're not talking specifically about 60's,
70's or 80's black American music, we're talking about soul as an
emotional force. When you hear the record does it convince you that
everybody involved in the making of that record truly believes what
We are entertainers. But that doesn't mean we want to bullshit to get
applause. We are obsessed with projection, we want to reach everybody
in the room. We want to take the audience up, then down, then up,
we'd love to move you to tears. If that sounds corny, too bad."
Then –rather controversially, it seems - Track and Field said:
According to this definition, Felt are a soul band, the Make-up
are a soul band, hell even the Pastels are a soul band. So if you
want to know about TRACK & FIELD, do yourself a favour, listen to a
copy of "Searching For The Young Soul Rebels", and hear what a band
sounds like that would "love to move you to tears". It seems as good
a way as any to articulate
what we try to aim for, and if that sounds corny, too bad."
Note they don't try to claim that Kicker or TomPaulin are soul. THAT
would have been controversial.
I think that to invoke soul is to invoke an attitude towards making
music rather than anything empirically in music itself – and that
attitude is just “Even if we’re from Birmingham, we still have a
chance to do something really, really good”.
It’s enthusiasm. But, as Tom – I think – pointed out elsewhere, it’s
totally the opposite of the Strokes. So many bands who subscribe to
Dexy's rallying call are mortally afraid of looking silly, would
infinitely rather make a string of shit records than risk anyone at
the NME laughing at them. So it’s anti-cool too, as enthusiasm so
Soul is nebulous and fuzzy and can hover over Wolverhampton as easily
as Detroit. But like so many pop cultural givens it collapses under
interrogation, a bit like me at that French border encampment, when
they kept flicking between Velvelettes and Crispy Ambulance records
to grind me down and MAKE ME TELL
― Alasdair, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
From Fortuna Pop!'s very *logo* found on back of Airport Girl
record: "Fortuna Pop! : More soul than Wigan Casino"
I know they're not the same people, but they're closely aligned, and
seem to espouse the same viewpoints and slogans. And I'm sorry that
AG seem to be my whipping boys for everything I consider wrong with
the London scene. (There are loads worse bands in the world. "Airport
Girl" just are to me as a concept = "London Scene" like "The Strokes"
as concept = everything wrong with NYC scene)
So... I'm not trying to insult anyone personally. Please take that
into consideration. It's lazy to use shortcuts and signifying words,
but sometimes effective.
My friend once said something very funny about the musical style of
Blues, in reference to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. "Jumping up
and down and yelling 'yow! I got the blues!' does not neccessarily
equal Blues." I think the same could be said about soul.
2) I just disagree with the idea that purity, or honesty, or whatever
are what equals soul. A lot of "soul" (records people describe as
having it) have a lot of dirtiness, a lot of darkness and a lot of
confusion. Do they mean honesty about *being* dirty, dark or
confused? ("I am a sinner, but I am saved" Amazing Grace-stylee?)
I don't know why I'm having so much to say on this thread because I
don't think I know a lot about "soul", I *do* think it's a very mis-
used term (see Strokes thread), and I'm really not sure it's the be-
all and end-all of what music should be.
"Enthusiasm" might be a better answer. Lack of fear of looking silly
or appearing uncool. Wow, cool, so next time people tell me I don't
know what I'm talking about, and I'm just blathering on incoherantly
on a thread such as this because I have no fear of looking dumb in
public, I will tell them it's cause I got *SOUL*.
What people see as "soul" is bound to context and not a free floating
conceptual idea. It's just a synonym for good really. Tho' maybe it's
also something to do with (good) music that is unmediated by irony?
Wow, cool, so next time people tell me I don't know what I'm
talking about, and I'm just blathering on incoherantly on a thread
such as this because I have no fear of looking dumb in public, I will
tell them it's cause I got *SOUL*.
Try singing rather than blathering, and if the "people" are the NME
then you'll have parachuted right back into the context I was talking
― alasdair, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
And you got Crispy Ambulance into it!
― Dr. C, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I agree. I used to dissaprove of irony in music in a kind of Tutting
Victorian Governess way, but strangely, and for no apparent reason
I've been getting into it a bit lately. Must be the good weather.
― stevie t, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Mike Hanley, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
what is soul? soul, i'd dare say, is synonymous with sincerity,
with "meaning it." soul is making the listener believe that you feel
what you say, whether it's "i love you more than words can say"
or "you should be bludgeoned in your bed." and while the artist plays
an important role in establishing his or her own soulfulness, soul
ultimately depends on the listener, as gareth said; some people think
mariah carey or michael bolton are soulful, i tend to disagree.
let's look at david bowie: if his music was all a pose and came
across as such, he'd be merely a conceptual failure; but even at his
most camp, he conveys to me, at least, that he believes in what he's
doing and that behind all of the artifice, there is heart and --
watch out now -- soul.
is it important for music to be soulful? i think so, yeah.
― fred solinger, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Patrick, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
I wonder if you sang a song about bowel cancer in the style of Luther
Vandross, how long would it take to notice that the content was
different to the usual?
as for bowel cancer sung in soul-stylee: isn't this what scott walker
did? i mean, not the bowel cancer thing, but he took a traditional
form -- crooning -- and applied his own lyrical bent. i played him
for my father: he noticed the voice and not the words; my guess is
that he wouldn't notice the words until he knew enough about the song
to sing along.
Wasn't that an R Kelly b-side?
― Nicole, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― tony wilhelm, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Yup. Best use of the word "soul" as an insult in well, ever.
― Tim, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― the pinefox, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― swelle, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
At the moment I can't imagine Oxide and Neutrino getting as boring as
the Prodigy were by the time of _The Fat of the Land_; what a sad
waste it will be if they do.
To answer Tim's question: Reynolds and *Stubbs*, surely?
What was being attacked in their calls to kill "soul" were the
debased, empty 80s imitators of the mannerisms and stylisations of
60s soul, such as George Michael, Mick Hucknall and Annie Lennox (all
those collaborations with Aretha and Stevie). Likewise the
Manics' "Motown Junk", which was an attack not on Motown itself but
on the MOR artists who dressed themselves up in its clothes to make
themselves look a bit more, you know, *authentic*.
On the other hand, Tim's attempts to extend a dislike of "dignity and
pride" in pop (by which I assume he means the U2 / Simple Minds / Big
Country 80s ethos) to a dislike of it in *anything* is a profoundly
dangerous and irresponsible statement. I will not vote for any party
which does *not* show dignity and pride. Much more of this and I'm
― Robin Carmody, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Josh, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― JM, Friday, 25 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― -, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― masonic boom, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― tarden, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
And yes, I meant Stubbs. And yes, the most recent Simple Minds
album I own is _Sparkling In The Rain_ from '83, which is
already a bit too grandstanding for my tastes. It's not the
grandstanding of Simple Minds that I'm really referring to though.
"Dignity and pride" is in many ways an expression of resiliance,
and the idea of listening to music for its resiliant qualities is
strange to me - resiliance is such an unexciting emotion. I'd
much rather listen to Beyonce tell me she's a survivor than wade
through the platitudes of an actual "survivor".
This is only a musical preference though, and besides dignity
and pride in the political arena is so rare that even if I had meant
it another way it would only have only been a hypothetical. For
what it's worth, I would love to vote for a group with those
qualities here in Australia if they in fact existed.
― Tim, Saturday, 26 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Patrick, Sunday, 27 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― tarden, Sunday, 27 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
From a more general point of view, I'm reluctant to purge any part of
the spectrum of sounds and emotions from pop - whatever
usually-annoying tendency that I'd think I can live without probably
has dozens of great exceptions that I love. In the light of many
exclusionary blanket statements that have been made here on ILM, I
kinda regret my putdowns of goth and indie and Smiths-style wimp-rock.
The radio station of my dreams definitely has room for The Cure,
Pavement and Morrissey.
Like you, I very rarely get "resilience" in pop; hence why I've
always despised "I Will Survive" and why even "Survivor" itself is
beginning to grate on me, whereas I love _Survivor_ the album as a
whole. Is it just me or is the lyrical content of that song far more
explicitly about the 80s idea of "marketing of the self" than most
contemporary pop is?
You're right about "dignity and pride" hardly existing in politics;
my own motivation is to vote for the party that comes closest to
showing those qualities, or that where the most individual figures
show it (though perhaps never the actual leadership).
― Robin Carmody, Sunday, 27 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― David, Sunday, 27 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Tom, Sunday, 27 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
And to "the other" Tom - sadly we seem to have yet another
contributor who doesn't realise Britain has got a long way out of
1959. Whatever goes through their minds ...
The Lomaxes are NOT to be trusted on the question of roots and
influence: they selected what they recorded to match their political
bias, esp.in re pure survival of unspoiled and/or uncommercial
"African" forms (tho the folk-purist notion that eg Charlie Patton's —
let alone Robert Johnson's — music is just one step away from the
abiding groundswell voice of the people is plainly nonsense, even by
the somewhat skewed recorded evidence). But mid-19th century Black
Gospel Choirs — eg the Fisk Singers or the Jubilee Singers — took at
least much from European church-music form/harmony, probably more, as
they did from field-hollers: not least because *even during slavery* a
considerable degree of class stratification had already opened up in
American black culture (and in argument as to how to further the
struggle). OK, there must have been a continuum, but it was a LONG
one, the difft ends far apart (geographically, socially: and no radio/
records yet to bust into this). And if there was traffic, it was two-
way: at least some "rootsy" gospel music is less "cleaned-up" than
"dirtied down" (esp. after the 50s, but probably right back to the
20s: as ref., ARC — a white-run record co., as they all were then —
refused to record those parts of Robert Johnson's repertoire which
they deemed "too white", eg his Bing Crosby covers).
― mark s, Sunday, 27 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Robin: What'd Tom do to you? He just mentioned that he didn't think Bowie had "soul". Which isn't particularly anti-British, just that Bowie did have his well known "black music" period, and Tom didn't think that it stood up. I mean, come off it.
I do think that this discussion rings false to an American precisely because on this side of the pond, "soul" means Soul Music, and "soulful" means at-least-part-Soul-Music. And suchforth. In the UK, from all this discussion, I suspect that this is some fairly meaningless marker which has lost the social context of its attendant genre. I blame the countryside. :-)
― Sterling Clover, Sunday, 27 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Personally I think this point - when concepts like "soul" lose the
dangerous idea of "legitimacy" - is *precisely* when they get
On the other hand, this approach gets us in trouble when we have dorks
like the Make*Up acting black or plagiarists like Lenny Kravitz acting
sincere and it's all "soul" because somebody, somewhere has an
extra-musical need for it to be soulful. Whoever mentioned Jon Spencer
As for explaining the unexplainable, I don't know. Again, point taken
about the rules of critical engagement, but it seems to me that soul's
universal promise to reveal more than the lyrics or music say on their
face is just the logical next step from pop's universal promise that
the next time you hear a song you'll like it even better than you did
this time. Everything up to beauty itself is subjective, anyway.
― Tom, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Sterling Clover, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
old reliable Sam Cooke style soul: bad
new shiny Autechre style soul: good
― Omar, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Patrick, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Bjut maybe it's just me I think the greatest soul band ever are
Kraftwerk and Marvin Gaye bores me stiff (ho!ho!)
and so it goes, this generation (embodied by omar) turns its back on
an "outdated" form of expressions, just as those to follow us will
shun autechre (as some of us do today!) as an excuse to sell jeans
(and perhaps they've already been used in commercials already!) and
to bring back nostalgia of simpler times. this explanation could
certainly be applied to nick drake -- what form of music is imbued
with more "meaning" than the singer/songwriter? and yet i view him
apart from the v.w. commercial and the reissues and the "renewed
interest" and listen to the music and say, "yes, that nick drake was
a soulful fellow."
i think some of the other posters are correct in saying that,
stripped of its original context and taken as a "concept", "soul"
becomes a vague, incredibly subjective and almost pointless
signifier. thank God "funk" doesn't correspond with any higher
― fred solinger, Monday, 28 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
Is it? :) I'm sort of curious why that is?
I like yr implication of Autechre losing their soul for a next
generation. This will no doubt happen. But really I hope my argument
doesn't get reduced to It-sell-jeans-it-loses-its-soul. There is just
something about Sam Cooke style soul that is so heavy with
preconceived ideas of Great Sentiments, The Right Feeling, etc. and
all I can hear is dead meaningless sound, just can't help it.
"this music sucks, it has no intrinsic interest except for nostalgic
now I haven't said anything like this? I like nostalgia :)
i. a specific moment in black pop music between (approx)mid-50s and
mid-70s. Multiple stylistic offshoots, some of which (funk, perhaps)
shouldn't be included.
ii. music derivative of that moment, the stylistic conventions
arising from that moment. still trace elements in most musical styles
iii. that moment reconfigured as something attitudinal rather than
musical. So ideas of struggle, authenticity, freedom, emotion,
rawness, organicness, liveness, pain...a lot of this stuff is very
very bound up with interpretations of blackness. The 80s
interpretation of soul as in jeans ads, literally adding colour to
the yuppie lifestyle, comes into play here.
iv. 'soul' as a totally abstract concept - the rowland/t&f stuff
quoted above. Basically a way of saying "this is good" possibly - but
not neccessarily - with some ideas from i., ii. and iii. above mixed
in. This version of 'soul' is a discussion-killer, and is also quite
close to how I use 'pop', as some abstracted force driving most good
music. The choice of 'it has soul'/'it rocks'/'it is pop' can be a
way of allying yourself with other discource currents or it can be
just personal preference.
(Interesting perhaps to analyse the sentences above - soul is
something external, rock is a doing word, pop is something music is
― Tom, Tuesday, 29 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― Sterling Clover, Tuesday, 29 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― the pinefox, Wednesday, 30 May 2001 00:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink
― jason roberts, Saturday, 15 June 2002 00:00 (fourteen years ago) Permalink
― N. (nickdastoor), Tuesday, 29 July 2003 17:39 (thirteen years ago) Permalink
This is soul --
― i guess i'd just rather listen to canned heat? (ian), Saturday, 22 December 2012 01:02 (three years ago) Permalink
it's a hamhock in your cornflakes
― m0stlyClean, Saturday, 22 December 2012 01:33 (three years ago) Permalink