Got to thinking about Michael (Jackson, not Jordan) the other day after learning that he’s back in the States for the first time since his child molestation trial a year ago.
Man, that dude could sing some slow jams! “She’s Out of My Life,” “Butterflies,” “Beat It” (just kidding). Seriously, with his silky, reedy voice, ability to emote like an Academy Award winner, and decent range, Michael could make you believe that he was actually attracted to grown women.
A lot of folks say that crossover studs like Usher and Justin Timberlake are carrying on in his skinny image. But the days of the pure R&B mega-star are long gone. Like Usher and JT, most of today’s crooners are also rappers. And dancers. And, based on Timberlake’s new movie, actors.
The only soul around is neo-soul, and it’s been relegated to the fringes along with indie rock and speed metal. Modeled after legends like Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and Michael, today’s new crop of smoove operators is purely granola, anti-misogyny, and better acquainted with traditional instruments than Fruity Loops and other pre-fab beat-making programs.
In Fort Worth, the reigning champ of neo-soul is Nuwamba (and we’d put him up against Dallas’ champ, Erykah Badu, any day). But another Funkytown smoothie is on the scene, and while he’s less funky than Nuwamba, he appears more capable — and willing — to cross over into the mainstream. Let’s just hope he doesn’t catch the Disco Fever. (That was the name of the South Bronx nightclub where LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, and Run D.M.C. first rapped, lo, these 25 years ago, launching a global phenomenon.)
Cowtown’s new promising neo-soul artist is Keite Young, and he’s got youthful good looks, light and airy pipes, and talent — he’s a multi-instrumentalist who plays just about every note on his forthcoming full-length debut, The Rise and Fall of Keite Young. His most unique instrument is his voice, a carefully calibrated hodgepodge of MJ, Marvin, and the Rev. Al that’s delightfully prone to the occasional reggae-inflected line reading. “Soulful” might be the only way to describe his music: groovy rhythms, effervescent guitars and keys, handclapping gospel flourishes, wispy harmonies, and bright, serpentine melodies.
The native Fort Worthian has some professional musical experience and background. His father and mother both sang and toured with The Family, Dallas gospel superstar Kirk Franklin’s group, and Young has performed with his parents on Franklin’s Nu Nation Tour. The Rise and Fall of Keite Young will be released in March on Hidden Beach Records, and the first single, “Pray,” will be out soon. Visit MySpace.com/keiteyoung.
Tonight (Wed) w/Darth Vato and Free The Leaf at Club Dada, 2720 Elm St, Dallas. $5. 214-742-3400.