It might be easy to label a song like Tear Stained as a slice of contemporary neo-soul and leave it at that. But The Bluechips are a band that requires us to delve deeper into their songs and unpack what they do musically. Their music has always had a very eclectic feel; as a band, they step deftly between generic inspiration, from hip-hop to pop to soul to R&B. Here, they are able to bring all of these together into one place.

Tear Stained runs on some cool, digital beats, the sort that is found fuelling modern urban dance grooves from the most commercial to the more underground of hits. But it is what they build on this, which is the real sweet spot. Seductive soul vocals alternate with rapped deliveries, and the music is built of cascades of beguiling electronica. Still, it is used sparingly so that the result is a spacious atmosphere that perfectly frames the vocals, allowing them to become the song’s focal point.

This song takes sophisticated pop lines and underpins them with slow dance beats, throws in an understated R&B vibe, and then mixes and matches vocal styles to create a vibrant delivery.

One of the things I love about the music makers of the modern era is that they are unburdened by the old tribal allegiances, that they take no notice of the generic demarcations that used to guide, and indeed separate, the music scene. And navigating around these old sonic roadblocks means that Tear Stained is somehow both cool enough to satisfy the underground and yet accessible enough to bother the mainstream charts. Clever!

In the past, pop was pop, dance recognizably dance, the soul remained soul, hip-hop seemed like its own domain, and never the twain shall meet. Not so anymore, and if you need proof, give The Bluechips a spin.

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