Neo Soul Today

Neo Soul Today is an authoritative source for informed and intelligent opinion, reviews, news, and other content about neo soul music, its artists, culture, and industry.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The "Neo Soul" Debate: Enough is Enough; Let's Just Move On

By Sean
Editor-in-Chief, Neo Soul Today

Enough is enough.

I don't disagree that the term "neo soul" was created by a marketing executive (Kedar Massenburg). So what. As a listener, I understand both sides' point. Nevertheless, I don't see what the big deal is. Since launching Neo Soul Today, I have realized three truths:

1. That the term "neo soul" (as controversial as it may be) has stuck
That this music (today's soul) is truly different than anything else that's out there (in sound and substance)
That the split over the term "neo soul" will never go away and that both sides have a valid point. Quoted from Wikipedia:

"Many musicians who create what is considered "neo-soul" prefer to disassociate themselves from the tag, due to the term's buzzword-like usage. These artists argue that many record labels, hoping to cash in on the success of the "neo-soul" style, simply had A&R departments take R&B singers, give them a bohemian look, and have them state Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway, or Marvin Gaye as their favorite artists. Instead of using the "neo-soul" tag, many artists simply refer to themselves as soul musicians."
I've also learned since launching this blog that music artists and marketing go together like oil and water. Nevertheless, the harsh reality is that both need each other and I believe most artists understand this. Here's why I believe this to be the case.

Consider two 2002 interviews with Rapheal Saadiq. In one
interview with Sacramento News and Review, Saadiq said, "I don’t believe neo-soul really fully describes my music. I prefer to call it 'gospeldelic’--that term seems much more encompassing, particularly since I come from a gospel background." In the other interview with VH1, Raphael Saadiq said he thinks the term [neo soul] is 'wack.'" However, he also went on to say "I understand why they do it for marketing reasons." I found that last statement enlightening.

Consider another example from a Honey Soul
audio interview with one of my favorite artists, Julie Dexter. When discussing being mentioned in the same sentence as artists such as Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, she used the term "neo soul." She said, "...that term is quite redundant. You know, I don't consider any of us neo soul. You know, you write soul or jazz or whatever you are. It's not necessarily new." However, she went on to say, "But people have to put a name on our music, I guess, at least to categorize what we do so when you go to a store looking through a thousand CDs, you can go to that section to find what you want to find." That's all I'm saying. Julie and I think exactly the same way. I'm not the greatest fan of the term "neo soul" either and soul definitely is not new. Yet, today's flavor of soul (and all of its sound variants) is clearly different than anything out there and without some way to isolate it, how will listeners be able to find it in the record store when they don't have a particular artist in mind? A "soul" section would be too broad. I don't care what you call it. Just call it something.

With all of that said, my
September 5 opinion on Raheem DeVaughn not being what I originally considered to be a neo soul artist has been my most controversial post to date. However, it was taken totally out of context by a few. If you've consistently read the content at Neo Soul Today, all opinion pieces are presented in a respectful manner and focus on the music and the artists that make it. Contrary to what some may believe, I love DeVaughn's music. I bought his album and will likely buy his next. I just learned that his music is more diverse than I, at first, thought. The post was neither a diss nor criticism. His diversity is to his credit. I just had the wrong expectation (that he was a neo soul artist) when I purchased the album (and I know for a fact that I'm not alone from my personal circles). My next purchase will just come with a different level of expectation as to the brother's sound.

Let's Just Move On
Admittedly, I'm exhausted with the debate over the term itself. I say let's just get on with enjoying the music. I would even rename Neo Soul Today to "Soul Today" (, but it's just not worth the time and effort (similar to trying to undo calling "neo soul" "neo soul"). Get in where you fit in. If you want to call it "soul," call it soul (because it is soul). If you want to call it "neo soul," then call it "neo soul" (because since the mid 1980s, soul went dormant -- click
here for more info). We all know what music I'm talking about; so let's stop kidding each other and being so sensitive about the subject. If you find my thoughts and analyses to be nonsensical and unintelligible, then I'm sure there are other blogs out there that are a better use of your time. I created this blog to connect with others who like this music (whatever you want to call it).

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Neo Soul Sound Session: The Alternative Rock Sound - Vol. 1

By Sean
Editor-in-Chief, Neo Soul Today

This Neo Soul Sound Session introduces a series of exclusive Neo Soul Today mixes containing songs that have what I refer to as the alternative rock sound.

Many are unaware that a handful neo soul songs have an alternative rock flavor rich with elements of acoustic or electric guitar, the treble of cymbals, all uniquely combined with modern soul. Some may even question it. That's understandable since the sound is fairly abstract and difficult to articulate in words as I've attempted to do in earlier posts on the different sounds of neo soul. Well, now with Neo Soul Sound Sessions @ Neo Soul Today, you can let your ears be the judge. Give these tracks a listen and then let me know if you see where I'm coming from now. (For more background on my perspective on the different sounds of neo soul, see "
Neo Soul Lexicon: Sound.")

I love this rare aspect of neo soul. I wish more artists would make some songs that delve into this sound. Among these seven tracks, my favorite is track 1, Rise, by Ian featuring Robin McElhatten from the 2002 compilation album Organic Soul Vol. 1 (
Soul Brother Records).

I hope you enjoy it and I welcome your feedback via comments.

Listen to "The Alternative Rock Sound - Vol. 1"

"The Alternative Rock Sound - Vol. 1" Track Listing
1. Rise - Ian (feat. Robin McElhatten), Organic Soul Vol. 1
2. Voyager - Les Nubians, Princesses Nubiennes
3. Don't Disturb the Peace - Ladybug Mecca, Trip the Light Fantastic
4. They-Say Vision - RES, How I Do
5. Dust - Van Hunt, Van Hunt
6. Golden Boys - RES, How Do I
7. You Never Get Over It - Ladybug Mecca, Trip the Light Fantastic

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Sound Off: What Do YOU Think of the Term "Neo Soul?"

By Sean
Editor-in-Chief, Neo Soul Today

"Sound Off" is a series of posts specifically designed to allow our readers to sound off on a controversial topic. The intention is to guage the overall sentiment about a topic and to put readers' opinions and thoughts on center stage. "Sound Off" posts are of no value without you, the reader, voicing your opinion by posting a comment. As the number of comments grows, I will highlight a number of hard-hitting ones that are characteristic of the overall sentiment (which can range from vastly one-sided to split down the middle). Thus, please post a comment with your thoughts on the topic at hand.

Topic: I knew the term "neo soul" was controversial. However, since starting Neo Soul Today back in June 2005, I've learned that it is much more controversial than I once thought. I knew a sizeable population of artists were not too fond the term. However, I didn't know how strongly they detest the term until now. Merely from conversations within my social circles, it was clear to me that listeners didn't care either way what it was called; so long as they can easily identify it and know where to go to find it (e.g., in brick-and-mortar or online record stores). Obviously, my current sentiment is that although "neo soul" (or whatever you want to call it) is indeed "soul," its sound is distinct enough for it to be classified (or sub-classified) differently just for the sake of isolating the artists whose sounds and vibes are characterized by this style. However, am I wrong? Neo Soul Today was founded with the intention of connecting and sharing with people who hold this sentiment. Nevertheless, some comments on this blog have led me to believe that there is even a sizeable population of listeners who detest the term "neo soul" just as or more passionately than many artists do.

Sound off: Who's right? Is "neo soul" a misused marketing term for what is really just good soul music that does not conform to mainstream standards? Or is it an ancestor of soul that is distinct enough to be called something else (i.e., "neo soul") so listeners can easily identify it when they hear the term or see it on the music racks?

The power is in your voice. Please post a comment now to sound off on this topic. Your comment may just be featured!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Jazzyfatnastees' Album Available for FREE

By Sean
Editor-in-Chief, Neo Soul Today

After a three-year hiatus from the music business, The Jazzyfatnastees are back with their new upcoming album entitled "The World Is Coming." They're so excited to be back that, for a limited time, they're making the entire album available FREE for a limited time! As of the date of this post, the album's ten tracks are still available for download in MP3 format from their official website at I urge you to download them now as it is uncertain how long they'll be available for free. The liner notes for "The World Is Coming" are available in Mercedes' September 12, 2005 journal entry.

Where Have The Jazzyfatnastees Been Anyway?
If you've been wondering where The Jazzyfatnastees have been since their last release, "The Tortoise and The Hare" (2002, Coolhunter), read Mercedes' June 21, 2005 journal entry. It offers a candid and very interesting peek inside the innerworkings of the music industry and the plight of a non-traditional group.

Post a comment and let me know what you think.