Headphones: Funk And Soul Staying Alive Through Leon Bridges
Fort Worth, Texas native and soul singer Leon Bridges is back with his sophomore album, Good Thing, three years after releasing his debut album. Much like his first album, Good Thingshows off his old-school R&B voice while exploring topics like his southern roots and soul-singing inspirations. Bridges often fuses his divine voice with retro sounds and has brought that same vibe to his second album.
Bridges often shifts between soul tracks composed of gentle melodies and funk tracks made up of bouncy, up-beat tunes. The album’s opening song, “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” highlights the 25-year old’s vocal range as he sings in a high-pitch tone over an acoustic track complemented by a variety of bells. The laid back track exemplifies the soulful yet groovy vibe that Bridges is trying to achieve in his music, the same vibe that many perceive as a tribute to soul music from the 1960s.
Bridges stays with this relaxed sound, letting acoustic guitars do a majority of the work, while he sings in a mellow tone on “Shy”. Like the rest of the songs on the album, and like many songs on Bridges’ previous projects, “Shy” is sung to an unknown woman. This becomes clear and evident when he sings, “I just wanna teach you/You could come over/I know you’re shy/You can be shy with me”. “Shy” along with “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” start the album showcasing the melodic production of Bridges’ music and the elegant way he fits his voice over a number of different instruments.
The traditional sounds of funk music are often hard to find in traditional music, but there are a few who thrive with the old-school sound. “Forgive You” is the first time on the album Bridges shows off his ability to create soothing funk music. The track features significantly more drums than the previous tracks creating more of the funk vibe that his fans love to hear. While the song is noticeably more groovy and upbeat than the first three of the album, it introduces a beautiful blend of his soul and funk vibes now seen in most of his music.
That same vibe is displayed on “If It Feels Good (Then It Must be)”, a funky anthem about doing what feels right and good. The high tempo beat accompanied once again by a series of bells and rings adding to the funk vibe. Bridges’ vocals on the track sound extremely similar to those of Anderson Paak, making this track sound exactly like something you might hear off of Paak’s Malibu. After hearing the similarity between Leon Bridges and Anderson Paak, it is safe to say that a collaboration song with the two would be the funk track of the century.
As most of the songs on the album seem to be directed towards woman, “Mrs.” is without a doubt the most direct. The song indirectly references sex with this mysterious “Mrs.”, while also exploring the love he feels for her. The track relates back to the earlier songs of the album, as Bridges goes for more of a soulful ode than a funky banger. Leon Bridges has an amazing ability to switch between these two different vibes, showing off his ability to use his relaxing voice to serenade the soul or bring back the funk.
Aside from several features on tracks of other artists, Leon Bridges keeps to himself for the most part. On both of Bridges solo albums, there has not been a single feature. While Bridges has experienced a great deal of success on his own, there are endless possibilities to the collaboration work he could create. As mentioned above, a track with Bridges and Anderson Paak could bring together two of the few artists still attempting to make funk music in the modern era. Despite these two being some of the most prominent in funk music, there are a number of other artists that would work beautifully with Bridges soothing voice. For example, a collaboration with fellow soul artist Kali Uchis would feature two of the top soul artists on the same track. Along with those that share the similar voices and create music within the same genre as Bridges, there are a number of hip-hop and R&B artists who would be welcome additions to Bridges vocals and production. While it is not necessarily a problem that Bridges chooses to work independently, it would certainly boost his popularity within the likes of other genres such as hip-hop and R&B which would equal the recognition he truly deserves.
As can be said of almost any singing artist, especially those in unique genres such as soul and funk, Leon Bridges’ vocal abilities are what have carried him to the top of his respective genres. In today’s music scene, we often see hip-hop and trap artists dominate charts ,despite not having the same vocal talents as Bridges. His ability to change pitches, create unique melodies with his own voice, and utilize his range over different musical genres have made Leon Bridges one of the unique and golden voices of today. While he could easily see success in other genres, he has found his place in soul and funk music and become one of the top artists in both genres.
Although Leon Bridges could easily find himself thriving in hip-hop and R&B music, he has found his niche within soul and funk music. Although there are plenty of artists creating soothing and funky tracks within the same genres, Bridges is one of the few using his unmatchable vocal talents to keep these genres alive and well in an age of music dominated by genres like hip-hop and trap. As long as Bridges continues to show off his voice and thrive on several production types, soul and funk music will continue to gain recognition in today’s music sphere.