Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Robin Thicke, disco, soul, electro funk and painting the White House black



A few days ago I wondered what had happened to R&B? When I say R&B I mean commercial or commercial leaning modern soul music, it’s top 40, you can dance to or chill to it. It kinda got caught up in the materialist cluster fuck that this decade became. Whereas some artists found their soul in the cell, R&B as a whole has lost its soul in the sell, a hard sell at that. But I just had a quick listen through Robin Thicke’s new album, Something Else and it does hold some promise and maybe indicates where R&B could go next…back to the 70s to trawl for ideas and inspiration.

I’ve a feeling that the next, post-Bush, era will be harking back to the ‘90s and by default to the ‘70s because the ‘90s were another disco era — remember early ‘90s house, De La Soul, Brand New Heavies and Deee Lite. Just as Aaliyah’s “Try Again” was an indication that Timbaland was aware of the burgeoning electro/new wave revival in 2000, Thicke’s album is a shot across the prow of this era, telling us that the next will be less about some of the noisy, empty and glitchy nonsense that exemplified this era’s music (not that this era didn’t have some jams too).

Bust out your Barry White, but remember the spectre of Kraftwerk looms, bringing in a soft machine music to ease the bumpy ride of the end of this bust, broke and bruised decade. We do like some soul in the machine don’t we? It’s the spirit of electro funk (boogie), Chicago, NY and New Jersey house/garage, when the beats and the vocals were on, and when you’d pick up that Ice Cube joint with the phat Evelyn Champane King sample.

So if Three 6 Mafia sample Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400,” T.I. uses Crystal Waters and Mary J Blige can cover Salsoul classics, then what is next, who will — as PM Dawn said back in ’91 — thank Todd Terry? Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock already did it with their “Get On The Dancefloor” smash, will the Neptunes sample Gypsymen’s “Hear The Music?” Robin Thicke’s album is a subtle indication that the next disco era is on the way and if the white house is painted black, George Clinton’s visionary funk will be in there too, the perfect fusion of butt and machine. Whoever stole the soul, can you just hand it back, we need it for a paradigm shift we’re having. Thanks!

Orr

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