Good Vibes: Where is the Soul-Inspired Music?

As I suffered through yesterday’s heatwave, with no a/c, I spent some time putting together a musical playlist simply called “Beauty”…partly because I needed to hear something inspiring…and partly because I was trying not to move around too much. With over eleven thousand songs on my hard drive to choose from, I knew I could stay put for a good couple of hours.

I kicked off the set with an old favorite, Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free“. There are certain songs that send chills through you, and this is one them. Another such ditty is “As“, by Stevie Wonder, and these were just a few of the songs I already had in mind when I thought about creating the playlist. I quickly added a few  more classics from legends like Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Rufus feat. Chaka Khan, The Isley Brothers, Al Green, The Spinners, Norman Connors, and so on…

(please click on the highlighted song or the artist to hear my actual musical selections)

As my playlist quickly filled up with soul singers from way back in the day, I turned my attention to some of the contemporary artists who have continued in the tradition of spirit moving music. Of course I selected songs from some of the more popular members of the group like Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton, India.Arie, and Maxwell. But I also had to dig through my “crates” of indie artists  and lesser known singers to pull out some wonderful pieces from Anthony David, Fertile Ground, Eric Roberson, Adriana Evans, Julie Dexter, and more.

Building my playlist even inspired me to do something that, in itself, use to get my blood pumping, but because of my Starving Artist wages, I had abandoned for quite a while. I went online to seek out new music from some of my favorite soul artists and search for rising artists on the indie soul scene. I will admit that I have a lot more digging to do. But from the few items I came across, I was  unable to find anything that stirred my spirit! A lot of what I heard, in my opinion, was canned, uninspired, and lacked innovation. One of my most cherished artists, to my initial delight, put out two albums last year, and both records sounded just like the work she created over a decade ago! She had lost the innovative spirit that she’d displayed on her less well-received sophomore album, that came out about six years prior to her latest recordings.

Have we finally reached a tipping point, again, where soul music has lost it’s soul? That was a major complaint about the music scene of the 80’s and early 90’s when everything went electric, and records were no longer being made to drive fans to live performances. Instead, musicians only seemed to tour to promote their albums. You could feel the soul of the artist being poured out on stage and those emotions were reflected in what they produced in the studio. Part of that died in the era of Reganomics and MTV. Luckily, for my generation, there was a resurgence of that feel and focus of the music in the mid-90’s.

Unfortunately, much like the 80’s clothing that has been brought back to life in contemporary fashion, I’m afraid so shall our contemporary soul music go. There will be plenty of “good” music, I’m sure. But will any of it give me chills?