Thursday, March 3, 2011

ADELE HITS #1 BUT IS SHE "SOUL"?

Congratulations to Adele, whose new album, 21, just debuted at #1.  I think she's a great singer, who has a vision and doesn't really conform to anyone else's idea of what her music should be, or what she should look like, or what "beautiful" is.

I was surprised to see an article in Slate saying that not only is Adele not soul music, but it sort of insinuates that she is an affront to soul music.

I'm all for critical analysis of music, and I wish I were better at that kind of thing myself.  On the other hand, I feel you can overthink things sometimes, and that's how I kind of felt about this article.

One point the writer makes is that white Americans like Aretha Franklin because she represents a caricature. I would argue that white (and black) people enjoy her music because she is one of the greatest singers of all time, if not the.  She sings songs that people to relate to, and when she sings them, you believe her. I don't mean to be simplistic, but I just don't think that everyone listening to Aretha has that narrative in mind. They like to listen to her sing.

Of course I'm not trying to compare Adele to Aretha - I doubt Adele would even be comfortable with that. I don't think Adele is selling much of a narrative: at any rate, I've purchased both of her albums without knowing much about her.  I know that she either has been dumped, or can convince me that she has been when she sings about it. And I know that she isn't interested in looking like other female singers. She's not a waif, and good for her. I react to her voice, which I enjoy, and the fact that I believe her when she sings something. Her influences, which obviously inform her work pretty heavily, are generally artists I enjoy. I don't think she's thought about it much more than that. I know I haven't. I like hearing her sing.

Is she "soul" music? She's been hurt, she gets back up, dusts herself off, and keeps it movin'. There's joy and pain in her voice, and yes, she sounds like Aretha is an influence. She sounds like soul to me.

3 comments:

scottscott68 said...

Great post Brian. You hit it right on the nail about Aretha...I'm not interested in her because she is a "soul" singer. I'm interested in her because "She sings songs that people relate to, and when she sings them, you believe her." Likewise with Adele. I wasn't the biggest fan of her debut album - I liked the singles. The new one is fantastic though. Like you said "Is she "soul" music? She's been hurt, she gets back up, dusts herself off, and keeps it movin'. There's joy and pain in her voice, and yes, she sounds like Aretha is an influence. She sounds like soul to me." Really digging the second track Rumour Has It.

Minority said...

thanks for reading and posting ,Scott, your comment made my day!

Anonymous said...

How can I say this in a way you poncy white guys will understand...? I know, I'll shout: "ADELE MAY BE A GOOD SINGER BUT SHE IS NOT A SOUL SINGER."

Is that clear enough for you - or would you like to go back through 50 years of soul music to see why she doesn't even get a foot in the door? (... and please, please, please don't give me that shit again about "she's been hurt". Do you have any idea of how dumb and patronising you sound spouting that crap?)

schaden_freud@yahoo.co.uk