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The Rhythmic Nucleus Says Farewell And A Happy New Year To Come!


                                                                 When I started this blog in November of 2012,there was more of a firm concept about the subject matter than the blog itself. I didn’t know how long it was going to last,or if it would even be of interest to anyone. After all a blog usually isn’t something self satisfying. Its the same as with literature. Books are written to be read,and so are blogs. That firm concept I started with was basically to show people how that rhythmic pattern people heard in Congo Square in New Orleans before the American Civil War  has continued to be at the core of every popular music-even up to the most modern dubstep electronica music. About how building the melody and everything else on that basic “rhythmic nucleus” is the point where music parallels how people build their own lives. Not entirely sure if what was written here always fully transmitted that intention. But one thing I do know for sure is that,to many readers it was successful on that level.

                                                                  As I mentioned on the anniversary on this blog,I have decided to close down this blog after its 100th post. As mentioned at that point,this particular subject matter seems to have been reflected very thoroughly here. Also as I went on writing on this blog,the topics began to become quite a lot broader than merely scholarly discourse on the jazz/funk/soul spectrum of music. Themes of generationalism and the human perception of music,as well as the sociological conditions surrounding that,also began to play heavily into it. So the other day as this blog was coming down to the wire,I had a conversation with my friend and inspiration for this blog-Mister Henrique Hopkins,about what I am announcing to you right now: after much thought,I realized that I don’t want to do away with a music based WordPress blog. So he and I have agreed to a partially collaborative blog with Henrique.

                                                                        I will not be posting on the blog as often as I did with this one. And every other blog will be a music-based contribution from Henrique as well. The subject matter of the blogs will be in the musically eclectic arena-expanding on the themes that this blog had begun to explore as it evolved. Funk,jazz and soul will of course continue to play a huge part in it. However much much more will be discussed as well. Some of what this new blog will talk about may or may not have the same level of personalized content as this. It will be about consistent growth and evolution. One of the things that helped me define this more expansive approach to music related blogging is the return to genuine musical diversity I’ve noticed within the year I’ve had this. Sometimes its appropriate to be balanced even in how much of a non conformist one is. After all each of us have different aspects to our personality over time. They are like whole  different people. As actor Matt Smith said during his final appearance in Doctor Who,we all have to keep moving so long as we don’t forget all those people we used to be.

                                                                              In conclusion I would of course like to thank my father and Henrique for being the main sources of inspiration in my blog. Though I have disagreed with both on many occasions,for many different reasons we have all continued to learn new things from each other as time goes on. The presence of these two knowledgeable and experienced male figures in my life have really bought the whole spectrum of emotion one gains from new knowledge they receive: the joy,the excitement,the surprises,the hope,the wonder and sometimes even the disappointment. And the best parts are when it all happens at once. Life is like music. To make it all go well,you need to be well rounded on some level at least-both in the way you critique it and the way you deal with it. A lot of people today would like to think they know everything. But we cannot know everything if we are to truly become ourselves.  Additionally I’d like to thank Thomas Carley and Henry Cooper who have also been extremely helpful in inspiring this blog. For  the year or so of The Rhythmic Nucleus,it’s been fun. Happy 2014 to come every one around the world. Good evening everybody!


The Rhythmic Nucleus Presents: Andre’s Top 50 List For 2013

Andre's Top 100

                                   One of the main purposes of creating this blog in the first place was to inform. To inform readers that,despite their heavy ubiquity,that popular music stretches far beyond what is promoted to the public-both in terms of the breadth of styles and availability of the music itself. Of course the filter through which I view most music was as influenced by my father: meaning the jazz/blues/soul/funk spectrum was at the core of my musical perceptions from the outset. Yet rock ‘n roll was also integrated into that. So the musical education I received was genuinely and healthily very universal and eclectic. Since its only been since 2007 that I seriously began to embrace new music again,its become clear that 2013 (so far the entire 2010’s) have presented a clear headed and quality level of new music. The past issues such as the musical credibility wars and complete lack of well rounded critical assessment are showing signs of soon becoming a thing of the past.

                                       Inspired by the tireless efforts of my friend Thomas Carley-nightly posting lists and songs online to Facebook to give exposure to talented yet unsung musical artists whom he’s antiquated with and even returning to school to learn the level of web design to facilitate a social networking site for such musical artists,I am devoting this next to last posting on this blog to discuss both the albums and singles that have significantly moved me during this year. While I acknowledge freely that music should not be aggressively labeled for purposes of extreme greediness,categorizing music in terms of the environment and culture from which it derived can actually be very healthy and artist friendly. So in this case I am dividing up 25 songs,followed by 25 albums from which those songs were derived. Please enjoy and seek out this music on your own. Overall,2013 pointed the way towards a healthy and creatively vital musical future for the planet Earth.

1. Love Starved-Teena Marie
2.New Life-Jim James
3.The Truth (Shall Set You Free)-Paul Hardcastle
4.In My Mouth-Todd Rundgren
5.Blaming Something-Jamie Lidell
6.Back On Track-Joan Armatrading
7.Don’t Stop-Brian McKnight
8.Got To Let My Feelings Show-Bluey
9.Something About You (Love The World)-LL Cool J
10.Get Lucky-Daft Punk
11.Do You Remember-Brand New Heavies
12. Oh Sheit It’s X-Thundercat
13.The Stars Are Ours-Mayer Hawthorne
14.Ooo La La-Robin Thicke
15.Center Stage-Capital Cities
16.Ghetto Woman-Janelle Monae
17.Blue Ocean Floor-Justin Timberlake
18.Dorothy Dandridge Eyes-Janelle Monae
19.Take Back The Night-Justin Timberlake
20.If You Knew Then-The Foreign Exchange
21.Long Weekend-Trombone Shorty
23.A Couple Of Forevers-Chrisette Michele
24.Fashion!-Lady Gaga
25. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer-Mary J. Blige

26.Beautiful-Teena Marie
27.Manifestra-Erin McKeown
28.Regions Of Light And Sound Of God-Jim James
29.VII-Paul Hardcastle
30.Memphis-Boz Scaggs
31.Time-Rod Stewart
32.Random Access Memories-Daft Punk
34.Electric-Pet Shop Boys
35.DreamWeaver-George Duke
36.Blurred Lines-Robin Thicke
38. Wassaic Way-Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion
39.In A Tidal Wave Of Mystery-Capital Cities
40.Hacienda-The Jeff Lorber Fusion
41.The Electric Lady-Janelle Monae
42.Now,Then & Forever-Earth Wind & Fire
43.The Diving Board-Elton John
44.Love In Flying Colors-The Foreign Exchange
45.The 20/20 Experience Vol.1-Justin Timberlake
46.Days Are Gone-Haim
47.New-Paul McCartney
48.When The Night-St.Lucia
49.Say That To This-Trombone Shorty
50.Free Your Mind-Cut/Copy

Below I am providing links to this years series of Amazon.com guides that illustrate in more detail the music discussed here. I have also reviewed all of these albums on Amazon. You can find these reviews under my own name through these guides by clicking on each individual album. Depending on how many reviews the album receives,this may take a few minutes. But I aims to please,so do take the time to look. You might like what you find. I am also posting a link to Mr.Carley’s website Tom’s Music Place,where he has actually been kind enough to a similar list to this one along with similar ones from himself and his other friends. Please support Thomas Carley and others like him in the mission to give creative musical artists the recognition and support they deserve. Enjoy the music,peace,love and positive attitudes for 2014 and all the years to come. Thank you!

Hear Some Of The Best Music In The Soulful Spectrum Of 2013:


Hear Some Of The Best Music In The Audio Spectrum Of 2013:


Hear Some Of The Music I Passed On In 2013:


Tom’s Music Place


Play That Funky Muzak: Television,Movies And Being Caught Unawares Of The Subliminal Soundtrack

Adults Only

                                  What you see here is the logo for the ‘Adults Only’ segment of the late 70’s/early 80’s American pay TV service  ONTV,which was known to air hardcore pornography in some that carried it,after the station had signed off for its regular broadcast day. Interestingly enough ONTV and other pay TV services were originally created for providing a cable TV-like experiences to cities,who feared monopolies,that didn’t yet have cable TV service. There is an another  interesting fact about these services. The opening segment of this Adults Only service (a separate charge for subscribers to ONTV,by the way) which you see in the photo above featured during 1981  the Bob James song “The Walkman”-followed by Ronnie Laws “Heavy On Easy”. Since I tend to notice these things being a music aficionado of sorts,there was an hysterically interesting topic for this blog in there somewhere: the relationship between the music of the funk/jazz/soul spectrum of the 70’s and 80’s and promo commercial soundtrack material for television and film. Since it has the strongest personal connection,I’ll start with the subject of pornography.

                                    During the winter of 2006 I driving from back from the grocery store with my ex when I decided to play Jeff Beck’s reggae-funk version of the Beatles classic “She’s A Woman” from Beck’s 1975 album Blow By Blow. My ex,who was driving the car remarked that the song sounded as if it was part of the soundtrack to a pornographic film. Unlike him apparently? I had very little to no experience with pornography. Never was prudish,simply very uninterested. Whenever I would see a sketch about pornography on TV sketch comedy shows or adult cartoons such as Saturday Night Live or Family Guy,I would begin to hear funk oriented music in the back round. Personally I’ve chocked it up to the fact that because funk,jazz and any hybrids or extensions of the two both flow from rhythmic movements of sound that adult filmmakers noticed how this might effectively match the physical end of the human sexual experience. While most people today are aware how sexual ones singing can be on a record,instrumental funk and jazz are often still very much associated with adult film for many people.

                                        On the other hand,I have actually discovered music based on incidental soundtrack music heard in a film or television show. The first example I can remember occurred when I was eight years old. Where I lived there was a local television celebrity named Eddie Driscoll who had starred in (among other things) The Grover Swale Show, featuring the buck toothed character of that name who was one of Driscoll’s many television characters he played and created. As seen in a tribute TV special to Driscoll following his retirement,I never noticed the theme music used for that show as featured in a clip beside the fact it wasn’t a bad song and had a great groove. A decade and a half later I picked up a CD copy of the Ramsey Lewis album Tequila Mockingbird and when I arrived at a song called “Skippin” I was amazed. It was The Grover Swale Show theme! And now I knew where it came from. Come to find out,TV stations such as the type my father was once an engineer in (the same one where Driscoll once worked,by the way) had a huge store of records by Dave Grusin,Bob James,The Crusaders and Ramsey Lewis used as incidental back round music for local shows and commercials.

                                       In addition to the references to pornography,I’ve also heard a lot of people refer to funk (in particular) jazz-funk as being elevator music,or muzak. A good part of that probably has to do with the fact that so much visual media-from film to television,has integrated instrumental jazz/funk music into the back round of American’s day to day lives. We hear it when we turn on the TV. We hear it in movie trailers. Not to mention on the multitude of radio commercials and promos that utilize this type of music in the same fashion. Can we say therefore the still obscure music of funk is a part of our lives without us knowing it? Or is the presentation so subtle and misunderstood no one even realizes it? Jazz and funk are therefore not commercial musics-they are more often used  for commercials instead. Especially on the most melodic end of the music. Therefore if one is listening for it and,like myself are looking to jazz and funk as an alternative to what other music’s they are hearing,exposure to it may be easier than one thinks. So the funky sounding muzak your hearing is really just funky music in a little broadcast incidental soundtrack dressing.

*I would like to dedicate this to Ben Minnotte,creator of the YouTube channel ‘The OddityArvive’,which did serve to inspire some of the information here. So Ben,thank you very much for your contribution of influence.

Amazon.com And The Burgeoning Adventures Of The Aspiring Music Reviewer


                                                What are seeing is not a defect in this website. As a matter of fact,its really the entire root of this blog to begin with. Today I’m going to tell you something that delves just a little into my private life-something I don’t do too often here. In the years after 9/11,I was living in an end of the city of Bangor which was likely the closest thing it had to a skid row. Don’t know how I got there,but somehow I managed to “live just enough for the city” to keep my nose as squeaky clean (even if flat busted broke) as I’d always been. While my partner at the time was at work,I would walk a good mile or two down a rather steep hill to the local Public Library where they had public computers. Due to abuses from often mentally ill wanderers in town using the computers to visit adult websites,the computers each had a limit of one hour after you punched your library card number into it as a password. I learned a lot technically about the Windows XP era PC this way. But also something else that was very important. Also want to apologize for the amount of “I,Me,Mine’s” you’re about to see in this article. Its not out of egoism. By virtue of this subject matter its simply unavoidable

                                                During my first years of rising adulthood,I ended up with a sudden great urge to beginning writing about the music that I was digesting between regular meals daily. There was also a lot of literature coming my way regarding the topic of the critical assessment of music such as the works of Rickey Vincent,Nelson George-as well as the more generic volumes such as MusicHounds Guide To Rhythm & Blues and of course the AllMusic Guide. In those pre-computer days of my life,just about every loose leaf notebook that came my way (and there were tons from all directions it seemed) I would review the music that I listened to. These all are probably still in existence in dingy plastic container in the family basement or stuffed into shoe boxes in some other secret somewhere. However a lot of them might’ve been recycled by yours truly because,at the time of writing them,I really didn’t have any individual framework in which to set up these reviews I wrote. So many of them were simply cut-n-paste jobs of the sarcastic and often mean spirited rhetoric of “professional” critical assessment of the mid/late ’90’s.

                                                   As the new millennium arrived these hand written,and by this time often word processed,music reviews I was writing were starting to take on a far more professional field to them. At the same time I had no intention of becoming a professional music writer. It seemed,particularly at that time,that working in such a field-while it seemed ideal for someone of my emotional type,would simply be making money by shattering someones artistic hopes and dreams. Not only was that a contradiction in terms to me,but also went against my individual type.  After all,as Sly Stone might have said it was definitely “time for living” at that point. Reality had set in hard,and it was mandatory participating. When I first began using those limited library computers during 2003, it became apparent that I’d have to find some way of using the computer to maintain my creative skills-in order to keep my heart and mind from becoming unimaginative,cynical,weak and helpless. It was during this time that I discovered Amazon.com. At first it presented itself as just another online shopping website. Then a very exciting moment occurred when I discovered that Amazon.com had something I’d been looking all along without realizing that I was: a customer review area that could be used for music.

                                                       Since listening to music was often the only level of happiness for me then,as it is so often with those forced to live through austere times,there was now a way in which I could consistently improve my skills as reviewing music and,best of all share them with the online public all across the world with the touch of a button. It was such a fulfilling and liberating experience. It actually bought me out of the skeptical and even anti cyberspace frame of mind I was in. The concepts we now know as YouTube and social media sites such as Facebook began to dance around in my head like sugarplums. My initial Amazon.com reviews were far inferior to my earliest hand written ones from the late 90’s. And luckily an site glitch forced me to abandon that original Amazon account,which still exists today in theory and open up the one I use today in 2005. Also through Amazon.com I had the opportunity to learn about little known artists through their customer recommendations. I even met my friend (and blog inspiration) Henrique Hopkins via his interest in my Amazon.com reviews. Suddenly I was discovering new music and reviewing as I heard it. And actually the idea of being,as it were a volunteer music reviewer as opposed to a paid critic was very appealing.

                                                       Today of course my online life is so much broader. There are now far more similar websites online on which to sort,rate and review ones music. Somehow Amazon remains my favorite,perhaps because I’ve grown online with it. The site itself is far from what it used to be. Continually difficult economic times have forced the site to continually pare down it’s features. For example,meeting someone such as Henrique wouldn’t be possible anymore since the social networking end of Amazon was eliminated several years ago. Also their reviewing system on the site seems to be evolving to more closely accommodate internet tablets/iPhone’s rather than notebooks and other more stationary computers. The only thing I hope for is that Amazon.com will never,ever abandon its customer review section. Nor would I want it to happen to any other website that does this. It would be satisfying to know that a young person stepping into an unknown new undiscovered country of their lives-entering their early 20’s in 2014 might be able to go to Amazon,RYM or any other music review site and be able to connect with others and share their views on the music they love. Making peace with the art we create is a wonderful way to start making much needed peace among each other. And sharing musical viewpoints,as I did over a decade ago,was a wonderful step in the right direction in terms of the most positive aspects of the internet.

                                                                         Link To My Amazon.com Profile. Please Read,Comment & Enjoy!



koan_sound__funk_blaster_by_evoraflux-d5wckx8                           Yesterday I was informed here that it was the one year anniversary of The Rhythmic Nucleus here on WordPress. The first reaction that came to mind was to question whether or not it was egocentrically correct to celebrate something that I created. Of course it is. The idea of the Rhythmic Nucleus as a narrative concept was one of the longest gestating creative ideas that I’ve ever had. Most of the time creative acts tended to arrive rather randomly. The idea of this came from more than half a decade of discussion with two men I am going to give the most credit for helping me create this. One of these men is my own father,the very first person who opened up dialog’s and discussions with me about the subject of music.

                           Few father and son relationships are perfect. But since nine times out of ten the topic of music brings my father and I together,he is the first person I want to thank for inspiring this. The idea of the blog itself derived from conversations with another person I often mention here. Someone just as directly responsible for the subject matter of this blog as my father. Henrique Hopkins of Oakland,California has helped to metaphorically help create a funk nucleus chain reaction as it were-giving me first hand information from one of the key sources of the music that inspired this blog. To my father and Henrique I want to thank you both for your enthusiastic help,advice and caring.

                           One of the serendipitous things about this article is that it is the 90th one made on this blog. So that’s also reason to celebrate. Several months ago I came to the conclusion that in terms of the writing here,I was starting to run out of road. So this is the perfect time to announce that,following my 100th article on this blog,posts will no longer be posted on a weekly basis. While there was a brief summer vacation this year,articles after this will be posted more sporadically. Another reason for this has to do with the fact that,although this blog has proven more popular than I expected,it isn’t quite receiving the levels of readership that would necessitate the struggle to come up with new ideas for writing here-rather than letting inspiration flow as it has been thus far.

                            To conclude this article,it was again Henrique who inspired the question I am about to answer. Several days ago while he discussed this blog he asked the seemingly simple question: was I writing this blog to satisfy myself or others? Funny how obvious questions have such obscure answers sometimes. In this case,the answer to anyone else asking this question is both of those reasons define this blog. It has been very satisfying to present my own ideas. Yet at the same time it is often far more satisfying when others receive something from it as well. It’s the synergy of giving and receiving. A similar synergy as is the combination of jazz,blues,African and Latin rhythmic ideas that came together to create funk music in the first place. So a very happy anniversary for this blog. And to those readers from the United States,a very happy Thanksgiving tomorrow as well!

Funk And It’s Matter Of Perspective: So Good It’s Bad,Or So Bad It’s Good?


                                          In 1981 Gil Scott-Heron recorded a song entitled “B-Movie” on his album Reflections. The brilliance of the song comes not so much from it’s subject matter of Ronald Reagan’s presidency,but from the fact that Gil’s typically pointed observations on America becoming “the consumer rather than the producer” came so early on in the Reagan administration. Even before the term Reaganomics was ever coined in the first place. This song continues to stand as an example to humanity that,sometimes, the best qualified person to make an accurate sociopolitical commentary on a give time period is a visionary futurist who can effectively communicate with the common human being. Since Gil referred to himself as a “bluesologist”,that would seem to go back to the original meaning of the music: singing the blues to release ones inner blues,not (as illustrated by fictional Simpsons character Bleeding Gums Murphy might say) to make people feel worse and making a few bucks while your at it. That’s the easiest misconceptions of the blues even Miles Davis had to contend with: the music as exploitation. And to some,that misconception lies in some of the appeal of the blues for some people to this day. Considering how generationally oriented this blog has tended to be? Just how far have these types of cultural misconceptions gone?

                                          As has been stated here before, I’ve all too often had to contend with a great deal of difficulty in being a funk admirer. Of course that comes from the fact I personally process the music from a very different standpoint than many of those around me. But ever since I heard Gil Scott-Heron talking about America being a nation of consumers and not producers,that line has grown to have continual resonance with me. Seeing life from this end from the outsider looking in perspective,a good vantage point to notice this would be in the types of employment people have. More people seem to have and seek employment in some variation of retail/sales positions than anything that involves creativity. And if creativity is embraced,its often the most masochistic end of it where something is being tirelessly manufactured for retail purposes. Of course those who control the nations finance do much the same thing-eliminating the middle man and creating an anti foreigner attitude by producing goods and services mainly in other nations. The end result is that many people I know see anything outside of their own social network of friends,family and (if applicable) employees much like concentric circles-all the same shape but diminishing in size,and therefore significance,the closer one gets to the center of it. Therefore the perception of one of our most human forms of social communication,creative arts and culture,have had similar fates.

                                           Some people,even some family,have spoken of me in terms of being a person who has a cultural aestetic closer to that of someone who,at present is in early/late middle age. That would mean that I have the attitude of a baby boomer era American somehow displaced in time. Its a source of great discomfort sometimes, at least outwardly. Inwardly though I’ve come to think of it as something I am proud of. Funk music is actually a good way to measure that aestetic. In fact the history of that has been mulled over on many different levels on this blog already. However one thing I have learned of late is that Gil Scott-Heron is very right about America becoming primarily a consumer-both industrially and culturally. The end result of that is cynicism which,as I’ve learned from personal experiences,runs anathema to creative potency. Its hard not to feel it necessary to repeat this. However when you base a society on ideas such as “keep it simple”,”keep it real” and “keep it economical” the thrill of creative innovation will inevitably begin to disappear. Its hard to believe,even now as popular music is currently improving a great deal, that funk music of the type made by Stevie Wonder or James Brown were once the culturally driving force of creativity-the way often foul mouthed and even ignorant mainstream hip-hop and heavy metal has been for so long. Since it is more a visually than aurally based culture still,there may be an even better way to articulate this impulse: the public perception of film and television.

                                             Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who,a British science fiction television show about an extra terrestrial space/time traveler whose time/space craft has larger dimensions inside than on the out. From the very beginning,people who’ve traveled with him don’t (and often refuse) to understand how an object can be larger within than without. The entire program is like that: it revolves around bending reality and stretching your imagination. Since it’s height of popularity was in the 60’s and 70’s,I can certainly see how a funk oriented person such as myself could be interested in the show. Yet the same applies. With a television show especially,the majority of the public are all too fast to condemn something that was not given the financial focus that it deserved-focusing in on the most superficial element of what they see.  As with the original Star Trek series and other science fiction of its era,the perception of such things are very much like what I once observed here about the perceptions of funk. The phrases “so bad their good”,”cheesy” and “kitsch” are terms that are often used. Personally I doubt that,in the example of Doctor Who,that people at the BBC working at a lightening fast pace with barely any money at all to produce forward thinking and socially progressive television would see such attitudes towards their work as more than,at best ostentatious condescension. At worst,flat out bullying.

                                               It is very easy to become cynical. That’s easy enough to admit. The true exploitative low quality television,ironically musically based such as American Idol and the many other series based on it,have been elevated to certain people as a major event-some waiting an entire television season for themselves to be completely exploited into thinking the types of musical talent presented by these types of show personify America’s ideal cultural consciousness.  Extending the metaphor even further I don’t conceptualize funk or television science fiction such as Star Trek and Doctor Who as being in bad taste at all. Rather the reverse. If one appreciates these things only on an ironic level,chances are they may find themselves in the contradiction of elevating the cultural importance of what is truly designed to be exploitative and insignificant. Did Simon Cowell ever go out of his way to help prevent violent rioting the way James Brown did following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination? Did Justin Bieber ever sacrifice his musical career and even his citizenship for matters of social principles as John Lennon did during the early 1970’s? No more than… say a movie about weeping women being jilted by unfaithful husbands and boyfriends will inspire female audiences as an eccentric alien travelling through time allowed the women he traveled with to be better people. Or even a starship peacefully exploring space where class,religion and race are something to celebrate-not something to fear. Are Americans seeing funk as a producible art form? Or are they merely consuming what from their perspective might be seen as something bad?

Overselling,Oversinging And Oversouling Your Music: A Highly Vocal Dilemma

Maroon 5 Video Shoot For "Moves Like Jagger" With Christina Aguilera

                     Christina Aguilera’s photograph is shown here because she perfectly exemplifies the entire topic of this article.  Recently I wrote an article here about singing hinting at what I am about to say tonight. But I wanted to expand on that more. All of my adult life, soul music has always been a passion of mine. In fact its come to a point where I flat out tell everyone that, rather than focusing in on the dreary instrumentation and dry singing that permeates a lot of alternative rock type music its that quality of soul, in whatever genre I find it in, that peaks my aural interest more and more. Basically soul singing could be easiest described as a quality of singing directly from your heart but,most importantly carefully controlling the way in which your voice projects these emotions. Its basically a matter of tension and release.  Aguilera has an enormous performance charisma and the image of a classic Hollywood movie starlette, which is ideal for the image conscious music world of today. In terms of depth and richness, her vocal instrument is actually quite a powerful one too. It is the way in which she, and many others present that voice of which I am about to speak of.

                     Whenever I’d travel with my father during the beginning of my rising adulthood, we would often play music on the car CD player for each other and talk about it among ourselves. One thing we often discussed was the phenomenon of oversinging. It is a term that means what it says, and a very common one too. Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson have all oversung at one time or another. And sometimes, it does actually enhance a song. But you have to know when to use this technique. Yet especially in the modern R&B genre, oversinging has gone to a whole new level since the ringing in of the new millennium. At the root is singers making themselves the center of attention-pushing themselves and their voices out front and center and generally over emoting. I had no particular name for this modern variation of  so called “soul” singing. So I am about to do something very out of character for me: quote another writer because John Eskow of the Huffington Post defined this vocal phenomenon so wonderfully in an article he wrote on February 8th,2011. The word he coined was oversoaling, a term originally conceived by Atlantic Records Jerry Wexler . Here is what he said about that way of singing:

                 “To me, the horrific part of Christina Aguilera’s rendition of the National Anthem — and “rendition” is an apt term for it, because she kidnapped the song and shipped it out to be tortured — was not her mangling of the words, but her mangling of the tune itself: to paraphrase the great Chuck Berry, she “lost the beauty (such as it is) of the melody until it sounds just like a (godawful) symphony.

           This is the same grotesque style — 17 different notes for every vocal syllable — that has so dominated the pop and R&B charts for years. Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston are relatively minor offenders, but singers like Aguilera — who admittedly possesses a great instrument — just don’t seem to know when to stop, turning each song into an Olympic sport as they drain it of its implicit soul, as if running through the entire scale on every single word was somehow a token of sincerity.

         It’s called melisma — the bending of syllables for bluesy or soulful effect — and what’s creepy about the way it’s used now is that it perverts America’s true genius for song, as evinced by its creators in the world of gospel and R&B, like Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin. You will hear more of this tonsil-twisting insincerity — to your eternal sorrow — if you watch any episode of American Idol. The great Jerry Wexler — who produced both Ray and Aretha — coined a great term for it: “oversouling.” He described it as “the gratuitous and confected melisma” that hollows out a song and drains it of meaning. “

Jerry’s words as translated by Mr. Escow rang extremely true to me. Again it speaks of someone who has the basic elements of a soul singer, yet they allow themselves to lose control over their vocal emoting to an near piercingly theatrical degree. The result is the quality of  Olympic singing Escow speaks of in his article. In all honesty, this phenomenon did not originate in the 1980’s: a decade that tends to be a pop culture whipping post for critics to this very day. Even pop artists who practiced soul singing of the time such as George Michael and Rick Astley had very careful control of their vocal projection and presentation. It seemed to start in the early 1990’s during a time when every R&B/soul artist looking to release uptempo music seemed to have to do so using the new jack swing hip-hop/funk hybrid started by people such as Teddy Riley in the late 80’s. Dancing frenetically in colorful parachute pants under heavy lights and sweating a lot, these newer singers had to find a way vocally keep pace with the faster music and dances. The result was a phenomenon of “oversouling” vocals, in particular with gospel influenced male vocal groups-many of whom sang through their noses in a therefore nasal fashion that only heightened that quality.

During the time with Christina Aguilera was ascendant in the music world, the patter was reversed. Male singers influenced by neo/retro soul tended to be influenced back in the direction of controlled vocal expression. Whereas female soul oriented singers began to take the oversouling style to new heights. Now just to be aware of my own writing, you probably noticed my constant repetition of the word “control” in this writing. That’s because that seems the most appropriate word for the most vital element in genuinely soulful singing. How to keep vocal qualities such as melisma from completely overwhelming one’s dynamic as a singer. There’s no question about it-it is still very much a singers world in music today. They are the most celebrated in the media. And people such as myself might bemoan that. But if it is to be this way for now a degree of shading,insinuation and nuance to ones vocal expression will likely have the affect of making said vocalist more likable. And their voices will be more appreciate if they are just themselves rather than forcing their singing in desperation for attention. After all those who cannot hear an angry shout may strain to hear a whisper.