Can Soul Make a Comeback?
I’ve always expressed that my favorite kind of David is “Soul David” more than any other type: Ballad Boy, Sacred Singer, Pop Singer.
So, imagine my excitement that this early month in 2013, not only did Justin Timberlake release a new R&B song in “Suit and Tie” and Beyonce and her former girl group Destiny’s Child released a new single in “Nuclear,” but she has promised a brief showcase of DC medleys for the upcoming Super Bowl! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my favorite song while doing my research as a doctoral student – “Say My Name” – is included in the mix. Ah, the memories of ’90s soul!
Yes, yes, yes, a Soul/R&B comeback!
So I thought, also thinking: “yes, please! Pave the way for #DA2014 so he can get back to his roots.”
Then “Beyoncegate” happened, which basically means this: Now that the Queen/King Bey herself has proven not to be trustworthy with our most trusted National Anthem at a presidential inauguration, no one’s going to take her seriously! Not even if she kills it during the half time show.
And if her new album was bringing back the R&B/soul vibe (which I’m just guessing she will), will it be dead on arrival?
After all, the only reason to anticipate a “soul singing” comeback is that R&B/soul in its original delivery was always viewed as “authentic” and “raw” (you know, the way Stevie Wonder and David – see above video – brings it). R&B/Soul – the antidote to this electronic/digital/techno/autotune overload nonsense.
But after this lip-syncing scandal, who will trust that the very genre of R&B/Soul hasn’t been corrupted by the digital music industrial complex?
And that, my friends, is the damage Beyonce created with this controversy.
Consider: Earlier this week, I posted my disappointment in the delivery of the patriotic songs at this year’s Inauguration, and that was before I even got a whiff of the lip-sync issue surrounding Beyonce. I just felt something was seriously missing – not enough Voice is what I thought. I hadn’t even thought about a pre-recording and how that might affect the delivery.
It felt extremely “soulless” to me; it’s these instances where singers like Beyonce – whose roots run deep in R&B/soul – prove that they have literally “sold their souls” away for mainstream pop stardom.
If someone like Beyonce risked being found out like this – all for the sake of a “perfect” delivery – how sad that our pop celebrity is now wrapped up in covering up flaws (i.e. what David calls the “problem of autotune,” which doesn’t understand that some vocal flaws are part of what makes a performance amazing) instead of reveling in the imperfections and the improvisation that makes a performance “authentic.”
I mean, I imagine that’s what all the hullaballoo is about, when you get right down to it: The Inauguration – despite its very theatrical, high-spectacle presentation – is supposed to convey a deeply emotional feeling of national pride and patriotism. To find out that our most celebrated star basically “mimed” that emotion through a pre-recorded performance (versus a live one) is to ruin the illusion for us. It’s like the moment of finding out the “Man behind the Curtain” in the Wizard of Oz.
So, yeah, I’m worried for R&B/Soul’s comeback. And while the coverage of this “scandal” is truly petty, IMO, I do realize on a deeper level it can have certain repercussions on what we think about public figures, politics, and the world of music.
Through this “lip-sync” controversy, even the Obama administration takes a hit: if they weren’t discerning enough to go for a singer with more substance to sing the Star Spangled Banner, rather than go for a razzle-dazzle superstar (who admittedly did raise $4 million for his re-election), then it makes them appear to be part of the illusion too.
Are our public figures, politics, and even the very music we hear just “smoke and mirrors”?
No wonder I’m craving my Soul David! Come back, David, and bring that “R&B/Soul Vibe” with you!