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date: 06 May 2021


  • Miles White


Musical genre. Dating from the mid-1990s, neo-soul typically features heartfelt love songs that reflect the complexity of contemporary romantic relationships. In its emotional depth it recalls bluesy, gospel-based soul music of the 1960s but is rendered through a more nuanced set of musical conventions. The genre definition is contested because, although the term has been used by music writers, industry publicists, and musicologists, the musicians whom it purportedly identifies have tended to reject it. Nonetheless, there are a number of artists, songs, and aesthetic features that distinguish it as a unique style of contemporary black popular music.

Neo-soul often contains spoken-word poetry or a vocal delivery that is more restrained than traditional soul. It is also rendered in a relatively narrow pitch range that is much less melismatic than its predecessor. Tempos tend to favor slow to mid-tempo grooves and the style draws from jazz, gospel, blues, funk, hip-hop, and world music. It largely ignores digital synthesizers in favor of traditional horns, drums, percussion, and older instruments such as the Fender Rhodes electric piano and the Hammond B3 organ, as well as acoustic and electric guitars. Subtle use of drum machines and turntable sampling is employed on occasion but rarely foregrounded....

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