Soul, R&B and even pop were always great at delivering the classic love song. You could make a solid argument that it is what they were invented for. Of course, we need music that can talk about broader issues, spark political debate, and talk about the world around us. Still, since time immemorial, musical creations from the earliest courtly troubadours to the modern pop pin-up have been mainly made to woo the opposite sex.
Gregory Bell‘s latest album, aptly titled The Lady’s Man, sits at the sharp end of such traditions. It is an album that discusses love from many angles; romance, love, longing and lust, but also dealing with loss and the breakup of relationships.
And musically, it covers a lot of ground, blending the finesse and seduction of soul and R&B, the obvious starting points perhaps, but also throwing in pop’s accessibility and even elements of hip-hop and more outlying and edgier musical components. And the overall sound tips its hat to the past enough to be familiar and inside most listeners’ comfort zones, but it is also forward-thinking, creating the sound of the here-and-now as it moves those genres into the light of a new day.
Opening with the smooth and slinky Ride, we are gently eased into this world of soul and seduction, an old-school R&B ballad running over a ticking beat and swathed in washes of keys and synths. With Her also wanders similar territory, heartfelt dedication and statement of devotion to “the one.”
Believe In Me is a recognition that we all need someone to lean on, again a gentle pop-R&B style running over a skittering trap beat and Winning blends deft and dexterously picked acoustic guitar with more street-infused beats, the coming together of analogue and digital sounds in a sweet, modern urban slow-dance.
If the love song is perhaps the oldest music form, it is worth noting that Gregory Bell is more about evolution rather than revolution. There is nothing too radical going on here; instead, he concentrates on refreshing the idea and bringing it into the modern age. He isn’t about ripping up the rulebook; he is more about doubling down and finding the sound of the love song for today.
There is an art to writing a great love song. There is also an art to creating something that chimes perfectly with modern music fashion. Gregory Bell manages to explore, create and succeed in both these aspects.