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!

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Posted on January 26, 2013, in current events, music. Bookmark the permalink. 36 Comments.

  1. wonderful post HG.. thanks. you put into words exactly how I felt about Beyonce and her decision not to sing the NA live. my guess she will be singing live at the Super Bowl hoping that will put all the flap to rest. as for David I really hope he does bring more of the soulful side of him when he gets back. it seems to be quite the natural thing for him as well as there might be more things in Spanish.
    this Happy Birthday at a VIP in Anaheim is another example of just how good he is at it.

  2. Yes, that video does prove how good David really is. Glad you posted it. Great post hg. I agreed with it all. I really like Justin Timberlake’s new song Suit&Tie. I heard it on the radio yesterday and I turned it up and loved the R&B feel to the song.

  3. I love that clip of him singing “Ribbon in the Sky”! I imagine if he were singing that song on the stage of the Apollo exactly as he did there (ie, same outfit, reading lyrics from cell phone, etc.) he would receive a standing ovation.

    Re. Beyonce, I think she will partially lip sync at the Superbowl so that she can focus on the dancing and hair flipping, lol. I joke about Bey but there are many more things that I admire about her than I mock.

  4. From the previous thread, Prince’s new song “Screwdriver”.

  5. Wowza, great post Hg. I completely agree with you,, R&B and David’s voice…golden combination.

    • Love this video and the song. Thanks for posting it peter. Like Prince’s new song and vid too. Hope that soul david will emerge one day. I like the soul/R&B David.

  6. Love David’s Impromptu performance after the Charity Basketball game. Most there were part of the Charity Event :) David is such a good sport. R&B for the win. Love the Birthday video too Kimak.
    Not feeling the Suit and Tie and cigarettes JT.

    Beyonce will be lipsynching at Super Bowl, I’m sure. Most that dance and sing now days do. JB, Usher, Jennifer Lopez ,etc etc Not liking it.

    Looking forward the the Man David brings back. R&B, Spanish etc etc.

    • Heidijoy, I’m with you “Looking forward to the Man David brings back. R&B, Spanish etc etc.” As far as singers lip syncing while doing big dance numbers on stage, I kind of give them a pass but no need for lip syncing while just standing on stage or even light dancing. I know that David has moved a lot on stage especially singing upbeat numbers like ZG and didn’t miss a beat. Can’t wait to see David up on that stage again…I know I’ll cry the first time any video will be post from his first concert. Never have been to a concert, but it’s in my bucket list…2014? 2015?

  7. Oh Yes, You must put LIVE David performance on your Bucket List for sure.

    I like the way David can sing and dance :)

  8. OMG, CQ, you need to get to a concert!!! When you do, I want you to talk about it so I can experience that first with you!

  9. Love this post, HG! I, too, have high hopes for the upcoming albums from JT and DC this year and am looking forward to a new trend in music. I can’t lie and say I haven’t enjoyed some of the songs that have been huge hits in the past few years because they do have a catchy beat and a movable bass line but mainstream music is really missing that SOUL that you’re talking about. I know everything moves in cycles so, while I’ve enjoyed some of the current one, bring on the real R&B!

    Your mention about imperfections making performances outstanding is so true. This obsession we have now with the “perfect” performance or voice is strange to me. I want to hear the things that make a singer (and a song and a performance) human. Does that mean I want it all off key? No. It means I want to hear someone who can sing, actually singing. IN that moment. This is the main reason why I love live music so much and have long said I tend to prefer live mp3s of David over studio tracks. You do hear so much of the soul in his voice when he performs live.

    That concept of “flaws” not being the thing to be feared most by a singer is on display in the vlog that David posted of himself singing Ribbon in the Sky again after the event. His voice was so rich and immediate. And even though he could have re-recorded it without that one little vocal hiccup at the end, he didn’t. Why? The performance was real. I have played the two videos of Ribbon in the Sky (from the restaurant and from the vlog) over and over. Neither are “perfect” both both are perfection. LOL. If that even makes sense!

  10. I remember when David sweetly put Michael Slezak in his place in the Entertainment Weekly interview, when Slezak pounced on David for forgetting some lyrics on AI. David said that you’ll never have a perfect performance, that it was all about the feeling you convey. I think that’s why singing live and recorded music is so completely different.

    Heidijoy, I’m with you on the smoking–and gambling, too. I was thinking that it LOOKS beautiful on video, but in real life, people stink when they’re smoking (not to mention kids wanting to emulate all the coolness). Also, playing roulette looks cool, but it’s an activity for suckers–unless that’s how you like to lose your money.

  11. Yes HG! You’ve written exactly what I’ve been thinking.
    Soul David is my favorite. I hope he explores more R&B/Soul music when he returns because I believe that’s where he really shines. I would love to hear David cover Stevie Wonder’s If it’s Magic.

    While I’m not a huge fan of Justin Timberlake, until David returns there are a few gents who are putting out some great soul music.

    Allen Stone- http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=z4Hy6kp5kIs
    French Singer Ben L’Oncle Soul- http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=69ptYXvUo7M
    Mayer Hawthorne- http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=JYHYAwvdHzY&feature=relmfu

    • Thanks for the links. I was familiar with Ben L’Oncle Soul but had not heard about Allen Stone or Mayer Hawthorne before.

  12. Watched J.T.’s new video. uhhhhh…….makes me really appreciate David !!

  13. HG you are an amazing writer! you put all my feelings and thoughts into words so well! where is the soul? exactly :( beyonce’s attitude and perfectionism ruined rather than enhanced her performance, how ironic. she is so perfect and beautiful that she ceases to be real or interesting, to me anyway. i’d much rather hear nicholas david at the superbowl now than her. altho i’m sure we will all be watching to see if she actually can sing “live”! which i’m sure she can! what the heck is she so afraid of? maybe the whole thing was a superbowl ratings ploy since everything seems to be so manufactured and fake nowadays. is david archuleta the only business in the music business who doesn’t use auto-tune??? it’s so stupid! it cancels out everything real! we all can be good singers with auto-tune so who even cares anymore?

  14. Beyonce will most likely do what Madonna did last year and will be lip synching most all of her performance at the Super Bowl. Elton John is one of the few music artists that is honest about the lip synching that goes on as he does not like and does not do it. Elton always blasts Madonna for doing it. lol.

  15. Soulful David…yes! Finally something that most fans can agree upon–David and R&B make a great couple!

  16. I think that soul is already making a comeback. Well, I think that there are more and more pop singers who put some soul in their songs and are being recognized lately, especially singers from the UK.
    Also, I like that JT didin’t go the easy route by releasing a dance/pop song like the majority of the top 40 songs. I think that David shouldn’t try to fit in a specific genre or try to follow what’s considered the current popular trend. He just needs to be true to himself and his artistry and create music that is authentic to him. I’d love it if he comes back with a more r&b/soul sound or a pop/soul sound. I also hope for collaborations with new song writers and producers.

    • Yes, I agree with what you said, Zara. I also want David to make music authentic to him. I am one that likes almost all genres so I will like whatever David puts out because I love his voice. David has fans that want him to do pop like his first two pop albums, others want inspirational, some want adult contemporary like Josh Groban, then you have the ones that want Spanish album, and of course, the soul David fans. It will be interesting to see what path David takes. He seems to like all these genres so we shall see……

      • I also like almost all genres and one thing I like about David is that he’s ecclectic and can’t be pigeonholed. I appreciate that when he sang Smokey Mountain Memories for example, he didn’t sound like Dolly or a country singer but that he managed to make the song his. It’s the same for all the covers he did IMO. His unique tone and his ability to improvise and make songs his own is already a huge asset. He can sing R&B songs without being labelled the next JT, he can sing a powerfull ballad without being seen as the next Groban, etc. I think that he just needs to come back with a more affirmed musical identity. I don’t know how to explain myself more clearly but I just wanted to say that it’s more important to be able to convey his own identity into a song and to create the Archuleta sound than to try to fit into a genre.

      • I forgot to say that his authenticity is in his interprétation of his songs IMO but I hope that he’ll be able to show it more in his songwriting and in the production of his music.

      • Yes I agree with what you stated in your comments too, Zara.

  17. Re. the Timberlake video, I wonder of the shot from 4:14-4:16 (ie, crushed white socks & black loafers) is an homage to Michael Jackson.

    • I think that you are right desertrat. It might be in homage to MJ. I also did not detect any auto-tune in JT’s new song.

  18. I believe that David is the best singer of his generation, and one thing I love most about him is that he can actually sing live.

  19. I was truly saddened to hear Beyonce synced at the Inauguration. I have always thought highly of her. Somehow, I feel it was very disrespectful to the occasion to not keep it real. I mean you are invited to have a small part of a historic occasion- and you don’t use the talent that you were invited to share? I just don’t get it. I guess the pressure for perfection? What the public has come to expect with autotune and airbrushing? uggg.

  20. Don’t mind me, just been watching some Soul David this evening ;)

    My absolute favorite song on the MKOC tour. As I think back to what were some of my favorite singing moment from David over the years, it always comes back to how much I love that soulful vibe from him. Like zara said above, I never want to box David into one specific genre because he’s so versatile but I do want that soul. Soul transcends genre.

  21. Ali, my favorite too….and I agree soul transcends genre.

  22. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erOyVF3nXnk (credit Bent2Win)
    It’s hard to beat D’s version of Works for Me!!

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