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.

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!


At October 06, 2005 6:30 AM, Anonymous Pru said...

Neo Soul is just a term they came up with when they didn`t know how to market the music, its catching on.

At October 06, 2005 1:11 PM, Anonymous YaMama'Nym said...

You already said it correctly. It's a basically used by record companies to distinguish mainstream 'pop/r&b' artist from other artist that are just as good if not better although not as popular on the sales side of it. It's just a slick way for them to acknowledge good/better music like the way they created a new category "Best Urban/Alternative Performance" (what the hell is urban/alternative????)for Jill Scott in 2004 to win a grammy award because they know she deserved one but they didn't have a category to fit her in because they wouldn't let her beat Alicia Keys for best "R&B Album".

At October 11, 2005 11:18 PM, Blogger Viqi French said...

So glad you asked, as I've been mulling over this very controversy lately.

I prefer the term Neo Soul to distinguish today's artists from yesterday's. Actually, I'm flabbergasted that some of today's artists think they belong in the same sentence as legends like Aretha Franklin, Sam Cook, and Johnny Taylor. Guess that makes me a soul music "snob." So be it.

Not saying that some of today's artists aren't great, but I'm just not hearing the consistency in the writing from 1st track to last, or from the 1st CD to the latest. Almost everyone's second CD has been disappointing; very few Neo Soulers have even put out a third.

Some things should remain sacred. I feel that insisting the young bloodz be considered classic soul is sort of disrespectful to the elders. Most of these artists aren't even recording with live instrumentation. This compromises an important aspect of the true, '60s and '70s soul movement.

I wish this weren't even an issue. And if the day ever comes when D'Angelo, Erykah, and Jill are simply called "soul," I will feel "Lawd, What has the world come to?" :-) Love 'em all dearly, but they are nowhere near Marvin Gaye, Isaac Hayes, and The Emotions!

At December 05, 2005 4:52 PM, Anonymous johns said...

It's a label and has such can cause unity or confusion. I tend to catagorise music as either crap or great but I'm old enough to relise that my kind of crap/great isn't to everyone's taste. I listen to a lot of what's called Modern Soul (in the UK) and this label comes from venues trying to seperate this music from Northern Soul. Northern Soul is just another label but it's a lot more specific than Modern Soul or Neo-soul. Modern Soul can mean Jill Scott or Marvin Gaye and their is little wrong with putting these names together. There is a common linkage between the two. As with all labels it's easier to tell you what Modern Soul isn't-it's not Rap Music-my god the DJ's who play at the venues I go to would rather die than play. Understandable though this is-it creates a divide which seemily cannot be crossed-which isn't so great for music overall.
Labels do work for people and some are willing to nail themselves to it. Seems to me that Neo-Soul was used as a term to describe new releases (that were neither full on RnB or Rap) and it has a nicer ring to it than "Modern Soul". But these days it looks like the terms been hijacked and is being seen as small group of Artists-which isn't doing anyone any good.
Earlier tonight I was writing about Steppin'records which is a label that has come into popular parlance of late. Somebody replied to a post where I'd used the term.
I described it as a gentle sort of music with a tempo very similar to any record that has the word "Step" in the title! Some labels are easier than others.
Almost all steppin tracks are classed as Modern Soul by the way (least in the circles I move in-yeah ever decreasing ones).

At January 31, 2006 9:39 PM, Blogger Skittlez said...

the music speaks for itself. what difference does it make whether it is called neo-soul or soul. it won't change the nature of the album and it definately won't change sales. i guess i just dont see the deragatory side of the term "neo-soul". it doesnt seem as if there is the same difference between "neo-soul" and soul as there is with rap and hip-hop. it just means new soul.....its still soul baby....

At February 13, 2006 11:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To me, the usage of the term neo soul depends on what sound it's rooted in exactly. Ofcourse, after the first time that I came to this site, I learned about the eight, different, most common sounds of neo soul as far as eccentricity is concerned, from hip-hop to world. Neo soul was coined to describe the 1960s and'70s classic soul sound that's brought back to the more modern high-tech sounds of urban and hip-hop. Well, the music can't really be called neo soul if it doesn't have does features. For example, some neo soul songs by Kindred the Famuly Soul have a definite hip-hop influence. But there are also some without the rap influences, let alone the high-tech elements of urban music. Some of their songs sound exactly like the original '60s and '70s soul music. Without the contemporary sounds, describing the too '70s soul-sounding (at least to me)
songs is just confusing. But apparently, that's only because it's rooted in the R&B sound, so I can see why and how. But if it were rooted in something else like hip-hop or electronica, then I would call that neo soul. Therefore, in the former case, I feel why most (if not all) detest being labeled "neo soul" artists. Because of the different sounds that neo soul has, I prefer alternative soul more as a term. Since it apparently makes more sense. But as for the seven other sounds that neo soul possesses, then I'd agree. These two opposite instances are what make me nearly ambivalent about the neo soul tag.

At March 20, 2006 3:39 AM, Blogger Muziqluv'r said...

The term neo-soul is a label but I think the term is justified. Of course there is nothing new about soul music, but there is somehting new about the way it is performed. Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Jill Scott, Dwele and others, all have a basis in soul music however, there are other genres mixed into their sound. Jazz, hip-hop, world music, etc. are all parts to the neo-soul sound. I don't think the label itself places the artists in a box, the people who listen to it do. If people wouldn't look at the term as a marketing ploy but as a term the symbolizes the transition soul music has made over the years, there is a strong possibility that the music will reach the masses.

At July 29, 2006 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey I have a blog on here called Dayo's music Review, I review music artists who make quality music, but often go under seen. Basically Neo soul artists. I love this blog, and I agree with it completelty.

At July 08, 2007 10:14 AM, Anonymous Braggadocio said...

Let me start of by saying that I am a fan of both soul and neo-soul music.

Listeners, you have to be real with yourselves! If you truly understood soul music, then you would know that soul music was a voice of struggle: a struggle for civil rights, defining ourselves as a people, our own unique pain, the way we saw and dealt with love, and so forth.

To also understand soul music, you all would need to really look at what was used to record the sound you heard from 40-50 years ago. The sound was uncut, raw, and did not have the technology of today! What bothers me is that the artists want to come off as if they have the same soul as the artists of the 50s, 60s, and 70s? Give yourselves a break, children!!! Until you have lived through those struggles while put down your synthesizers, computers, IPODS, and expensive stereo systems, the soul SOUND will not exist in your electronic-induced ears.

For neo-soul fans and artists: guess what? What you all do and listen to is Neo!! It is a new version of Soul. Soul gave you a template of what can be done without all of the fancy keyboards, studios, and mics. You all (listeners and artists) will never be able to re-create soul unless you downgrade everything you have. Soul artists worked with little of nothing to give you the sound that you all want so bad.

I have to be honest here: people are educated fools most of the time because they have to hip, cool, and different. I am a producer myself. I can not attempt to re-create soul...but Neo-Soul is easy as all get out! If I said I produced Soul, I would be a liar. To be mad a term when the producers, artists, and listeners are new to Soul music to begin with is ridiculous.

Lastly, neo-soul artists need to realize that without that grit (50's, 60's, 70's sounding equipment), it aint shi....! They are neophytes to the game. Just be happy that a template was made and that we all have our version of it.

Just stop she-dogging about it!!!

At October 27, 2008 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"neo soul" -

personally it doesn't go down well with me. the branding of genre's in the world of music in particular in the sector of funk/soul/rnb has been quite ridiculous.

Do you really think D'Angelo's mindset when making his debut album was " im going to make a neo-soul music " ?

lets take acid jazz as an example. something the brits can claim as their own? what a joke.

R&B = i dont how they can classify todays computer generated non musician productions with the abbreviation R&B. Rhythm & Blues ? any electic music type will not think of beyonce when the word "R&B" is discussed.

Isn't it all just soul music.

I guess music is expanding in terms of styles and labelling is mostly suited for categorisations in music stores.

At August 13, 2011 5:42 PM, Blogger DJ Goodmea said...

I absolutely have no issues with the term neo soul. I fell in love with the genre of music whilst living in Japan and seriously contemplated moving to Philadelphia to be closer to the epicenter. As for the term, I thought it to mean a revival of soul music. I would not go as far as to call it the antithesis of hip hop / rap, but I will take it over those genres any day. I prefer listening to music that is challenging in a positive way, is not violent and does not degrade people. In one of the many underground music scenes in Japan, Quality Music was (still is) a big thing. Neo Soul is just that, Quality Music and a breath of fresh air where the FM streams are mostly bubble gum pop, hos and gangsters. Perhaps if I were raised in an environment where women were not appreciated, where kids are shot for their kicks and fathers are few and far between, I just might have an appreciation for some popular genres of music, but that lifestyle, that environment is completely alien to me and thus I am naturally suspicious of it. That does not mean I won't listen to Ghostface Killa or Papoose from time to time, but my preference lies elsewhere.

Also, I do hope you write an article on neo soul fans from overseas. It has a large following in Japan.


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