A month or so ago a name appeared atop the Twitter trending list that hadn't been seen for quite a while, and the music blogosphere was suddenly abuzz with a flurry of excitement and disbelief surrounding a possibly new leaked track and a question suddenly on everyone's lips: had Lauryn Hill returned?
The 35-year-old singer (who famously all but disappeared from music following her smash debut) has hinted ever so slightly that a comeback might be in the works, and will appear at four dates of the Rock the Bells 2010 concert series later this month, but officially the music world continues its vigilant wait, twelve years later, in hopes of another masterpiece from arguably the greatest R&B singer of our time. While the song in question, a mid-groove soul number dubbed "Repercussions," was generally thought at last to be a castaway track recorded for Hill's iconic 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the enormous response to the technically new material made one thing clear: a market for the R&Soul music that defined the early- to mid-90s exists in abundance.
Browse the comments of almost any YouTube video of songs by Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, old Mary J. Blige, Ginuwine, or the like and you'll see scores of lamentations about soul music (often referred to by these commenters as "real music") is dead, or at least how they don't make music like that anymore. Indeed, the soul renaissance of the 1990s gave way to the hip hop resurgence of the 2000s, and the R&B/Hip Hop Billboard charts saw fewer soul entries as the new millenium rang in.
But now Jay-Z is saying Hip Hop is dead, and despite the fact that one look at the Hot 100 top ten rebuts that opinion handily, it seems that some really great soul keeps popping up here and there lately, and when it does it makes a splash. Even I have embarked upon an in-depth study of the recent history of soul and R&B music as a sort of extra-curricular diversion to inform my pop sensitivities, and I've brought back some souvenirs for the loosely pop music world Vertigo Shtick inhabits and informs. I'll call it Soul Ain't Dead week: an exploration and celebration of some of the newest in soul and R&B that appeals to this readership not so much because the selections are merely pop-friendly, but more because they're mostly just pretty damn good. Enjoy!