Ear Hustle

Al Greer’s “That’s The Way I See It!!”: “The New Sound of Soul”

Soul has a “new” sound and a new face!!

I know that I’m gonna ruffle a few feathers however on this subject; this is the way I see it. Bruno Mars, Sam Smith, Robin Thicke and Justin Timberlake are the “new” Soul Brothers on the music scene. Growing up it was Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett and James Brown. Back then we fought to crossover to the White audience, but now all you have to do is sing like a “brotha” and VIOLA…you’re in there!

Anytime the most popular song in America is by a White or Hispanic guy singing about “funk”.   I just have to question the public’s definition of “Soul.” Last year it was Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” which became the song of the summer of 2014, however it came at a price. He admitted he was trying to sound like Marvin Gaye’s 1977 hit “Got To Give It Up” and ended up having to pay a sizable amount to the family of Mr. Gaye.

robin thicke

This year’s hit song is “Uptown Funk” a collaboration between Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. The song contains elements of Roger & Zapp’s “More Bounce To The Once”, The Gap Band’s “I Don’t Believe You Wanna Get Up and Dance” aka “Oops Up Side Your Head” and everything Morris Day & The Time ever did.  In fact, he’s copped Mr. Day’s look and feel in the video for “Uptown Funk.”  The only thing missing in this video was Jerome Benton (from The Time) himself!

bruno mars

Sam Smith won a Grammy for his song with Mary J. Blige titled “Stay With Me” which includes a Gospel Choir behind him (all sung by Smith). Smith has even admitted in a current interview that he doesn’t listen to other male singers, he listens to Black female singers such as Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige and Patti LaBelle.

sam smith

Justin Timberlake, who was born in Memphis, has brought “Sexy Back” and wearing a “Suit And Tie” back as well. His last CD included a cameo from rapper Jay Z. Don’t get me wrong, the music is great but when was the last time you heard a new song from Kenny Lattimore in the top 10…or Brian McKnight, Will Downing or even Freddie Jackson?  I guess these artists are past their prime and can on longer sell-out a concert hall.

justin timberlake

With the exception of Kem, John Legend and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, nobody is packing them in anymore unless it’s a bunch of “Old School Singers” like Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill or Ginuwine.  Once again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not “Anti-White, I’m just Pro-Black.” 

We’ve been ripped-off musically for so long, it goes as for back as Pat Boone’s version of Little Richard’s “Tutti Fruitti” in 1955.  Singer Wayne Cochran was known as the “White Knight Of Soul” in the sixties. His imitation of James Brown was dead-on, which included Mr. Brown’s famous cape routine and white pompadour hair style to match. In the words of the great Little Richard“If Elvis Presley is the King Of Rock and Roll, what am I?”

They say that imitation is the fondest form of flattery, indeed it is; just make sure you don’t have to pay for it later!

And that’s the way I see it!

Until next time, blue skies, green lights and peace!!

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