Seal | Soul

| Cadenza Reporter

You know how every once in a while, when a music artist gets a little older and runs out of ideas, he or she will put out an album of standards? No need to write anything new, just throw together some Sinatra, some Nat King Cole, maybe some Billie Holiday and voila! Everyone over the age of 35 buys the new album, smiles and hums along, reminiscing about the “good old days.”

Well, “Soul” is apparently the Motown version of that same album. Not a single song is original—no, forget original, most of these songs have been done by at least five different artists. So my advice to anyone considering buying this CD is: don’t. Get onto your music downloading software of choice, and find the originals. There is a reason why these songs are classics, and Seal has nothing to do with it.

Consider, for example, Seal’s version of “Stand By Me.” Everyone who has ever listened to music has heard “Stand By Me” at some point, and it’s a great song. But Seal’s version is like what happens when a pop star sings the national anthem. He messes around with the rhythms and the tune just enough that the listener can’t actually sing along, but he doesn’t add any fresh take on such classic material.

Even people who are generally fans of Seal might not be too happy with “Soul” because it’s such a departure from his usual acoustic, easy-listening style. People who know and love the songs themselves and aren’t too familiar with Seal, will end up wanting to hunt him down and smack him upside the head.

The ideal audience for “Soul,” then, is someone who doesn’t have much of a sense of history and has never heard anything else by Seal, but rather picked up the CD out of a half-price bin because it looked interesting. Maybe someone who is really into Kid Rock and other modern revivals of an old-school sound. To this person, “Soul” might be a decent introduction to the classics.

Seal has a strong voice, and he picked out a few songs that the average college kid probably wouldn’t know. Taken completely out of context, in fact, “Soul” is fairly enjoyable to listen to. But even to this theoretical, perfect listener, I would say, whichever songs you enjoyed the most on “Soul” were probably about 10 times better in the original recordings. Maybe Seal intended “Soul” as a tribute to the great artists who pioneered the soul genre, but to anyone who might appreciate such a tribute, the CD is 100 percent superfluous material.

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