Have you taken a look at the Billboard Charts lately? Well, if you have you would notice that there are plenty of hip-hop and R&B records leading the way at the top of the charts. What you might fail to realize is that many of these records are being performed by white artist. Some of these artist include Justin Timberlake, Mac Miller, Macklemore, Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande and of course Mariah Carey. With that said we would like to say welcome back white boy soul. Please read the article below and look at the re-emergence of, “White Boy Soul.”
Soul music is something that should transcend racial barriers being that it is derived from somewhere deep in the guttural depths of what makes us human beings so special. Unfortunately, we live in a world where race matters and is often used to categorize genres of music, film, and entertainment. Consequently when “white boys” sing soul or Asians play point guard in the N.B.A. it gets talked about for all the wrong reasons. Luckily for Wheat City Magazine our favorite contributor, A.J. Coffelt, is here to give you the skinny on “white boy soul” past, present, and future from a refreshing perspective.
White Boy Soul By: A.J. Coffelt
White Boy Soul, otherwise known as Blue-Eyed Soul, is something everyone needs a little more of in their lives. Some would say Blue Eyed Soul started with Elvis Presley, but I would tend to disagree. Elvis was a pioneer in Rock and Roll; I would even buy him as an innovator in R&B, but not Soul. In my opinion, Blue Eyed Soul started in the late 70s and early 80s, with artists like Daryl Hall and Bobby Caldwell introducing listeners to a new turn on a classic genre made famous by artists like Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke, and many more. As an era that has long been looked at as a “downtime” in music history, the 80s was White Boy Soul’s finest hour, until now. I’m going to take the next few minutes of your life to introduce you to a few artists that you may or may not already be aware of, if you already listen, that is fantastic, and if not, you’ll have no more excuses after reading this.
Alan Thicke is known as one of the all-time great TV dads, Dr. Jason Seaver, on Growing Pains. Little did we all know that his greatest achievement was not actually any acting work that he did, but his offspring that everyone would most appreciate about Alan Thicke. Robin Thicke has become one of the top acts in Soul today. He burst on the scene in 2002, with his Beethoven sampling debut single, “When I Get You Alone”. Since then, he has had a steady string of quality albums, along with a variety of radio friendly hits. Robin just released his fifth studio album, Love After War, in 2011. Thicke’s best effort, which also has been his greatest commercial success, is 2006’s The Evolution of Robin Thicke, which contains his biggest hit to date in “Lost Without U”. Robin Thicke’s music is made for when you are lovin’ on a special someone, so I wouldn’t recommend playing any Robin Thicke when you’re hanging out with your buds. Another White Boy Soul artist that cannot be missed is Seattle, Washington’s own Allen Stone.
Allen Stone is someone you absolutely should not be sleeping on, this guy is something special. My friends and soon to be fellow podcasters Santino and Cody just had the chance to meet Stone and see him live along with the rest of the Wheat City staff, and all parties agreed he puts on one of the best live shows they have ever seen. His voice is powerful, reminiscent of a young Stevie Wonder, only with a much higher vocal range. His live shows are packed full of covers, most of them being just as good as the original in some cases. His sophomore album, Allen Stone, is now available to buy on iTunes, and is also available to stream via Spotify. His career is just starting to take off, having already made an appearance on Conan, and he also recently did an episode of Daryl Hall’s online show, Live at Daryl’s House, which will surely be something to not skip out on. To hear Hall and Stone do a set together of each other’s tunes is something any good music lover will surely appreciate. If you want to see the best example of Stone’s talents, hit up the ole’ YouTube and hear his performance of his song “Unaware”, live from his mother’s living room. The third and final artist I’m going to tell you about is an artist that has already been featured on not one, but two episodes of Live at Daryl’s House.
Mayer Hawthorne is a former DJ from Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 2008, he decided to record a few soul tracks, just as a side project. Someone at his label heard the tracks and insisted he make an album, which would become Hawthorne’s debut album, A Strange Arrangement. Clearly influenced by artists like Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, and again, Daryl Hall, Mayer Hawthorne is bringing 60s soul back in a big way. A Strange Arrangement is one of the best soul albums I’ve ever heard, and it may not even be his best work. The album features stand out tracks, “Your Easy Lovin Ain’t Pleasin’ Nothin”, “Maybe So, Maybe No”, and the title track, amongst others. Last year, he released a free online EP of cover songs, titled Impressions, which featured covers of The Isley Brothers’ “Work to Do”, ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky”, and what has become one of my favorite covers ever, a Teddy Pendergrass-esque take on Chromeo’s “Don’t Turn The Lights On”. Also in 2011, Hawthorne released How Do You Do, which made my list of the ten best albums of last year (see my previous Wheat City Article). Although it features a song with a feature by a singing Snoop Dogg that is borderline forgettable, the rest of the album is absolute greatness. Songs like “A Long Time”, “Hooked”, and “No Strings” draw you in immediately, with two tapping arrangements and smooth vocals. The last track on the record is a song that definitely took some influence from Marvin Gaye’s classic “Got to Give It Up”. “Henny and Ginger ale” is a straight funky jam yo, and is definitely the track you cannot miss on How Do You Do. Hawthorne will be performing May 21 in Lawrence at the Granada, and it will surely be a show you will not want to miss.
These three artists are just a select few of the fantastic artists out there today bringing White Boy Soul back to cultural relevance. Artists like Chromeo, Marc Broussard, among others are also making their mark in this genre, but these three guys are the ones on the forefront of big things in the not so distant future. I have been listening to Stone and Hawthorne’s albums on repeat essentially for the last couple months, and I’ve yet to grow tired of a single track from either artist. I would like to think you paused at one point while reading this to start playing some of this music on your music player of choice, but if you didn’t, you should definitely do so now. Soul music is something everyone needs in their rotation; it’s good for the…soul. Also be on the lookout for Wheat City Magazine’s exclusive interview with Allen Stone set to drop in the next few weeks.