04 January 2008

Something 4 The Weekend # 51

I don't listen to Top 40 radio, and I don't have cable television, so it's not uncommon for me to have certain "pop culture blind spots". For example, I had not heard "Umbrella" by Rihanna until last week, even though it was a huuuuuge smash hit this summer, so huge that the readers of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY recently named it their favorite song of 2007.
Having finally heard "Umbrella" last week, all I can say is that it's really not that good a song to my ears. In fact, I couldn't find a single engaging hook or melody in the entire tune, and marvelled to myself that it might in fact be the single blandest, most homogenized song to ever sit atop the charts. Making matters worse, to my ears, is the fact that Rihanna simply isn't a very good singer. Oh, she's not a horrible singer, and appears to be less Auto-Tuned than most of her peers, but to me she isn't a good enough singer to overcome the mediocrity of the music. All this mediocrity might also explain her penchant for wearing latex fetish gear in concert, but then again, 95% of pop music is sold with sexual imagery to begin with, so that's a digression I should probably just walk away from.
Recently I posted a Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings tune, and mildly lamented the discernable lack of soul in modern "Soul" music (my euphemism of choice for most urban, African-American music), and I suppose this post is more of the same...It's a shame to me that a song like "Umbrella", a Soul song with little soul, should resonate so deeply with so many people.
In these situations, I like to wash away that shame and bewilderment as quickly as possible. So after I had heard "Umbrella" last week, I immediately went to my hard drive searching for something to cleanse my palate, which often involves Stevie Wonder, but what I landed upon this time was a Lou Rawls anthology from the 1960's.
Lou Rawls had tons of soul. And aside from his distinctive and great voice, he also had a knack for choosing really good songs for that voice. Frank Sinatra once said that Lou Rawls had "the classiest singing and silkiest chops in the singing game", and I'm certainly not going to quibble with the Chairman on that...
This would also be the right time to tell you that his 1976 hit, "You'll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine)", is probably my favorite song from that entire decade, and if that statement is more hyperbole than fact, I would still say that the song remains the most evocative of that era, and floods me with so many good and fond memories of my family's Florida vacation of that bicentennial year.
Silky chops, indeed.
Hotcha! Hank

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