Forward Thinking: Music mix and madge

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Item 1: To borrow a line from Public Enemy, who stole the soul and shipped it to New Zealand this month?

Honestly, there's a soul kind of feeling going down in Aotearoa in February. American diva Erykah Badu and British clubland institution Soul II Soul are at Splore next weekend, conscious soul singer Aloe Blacc is on a winery tour, and Detroit white boy Mayer Hawthorne also makes a return to our shores.

But with Badu known as the "queen of neo soul", Hawthorne like the Michael Buble of soul, and Blacc a rapper-turned-modern day soul man, it makes you wonder what soul music is these days? It comes in many weird and wonderful forms, that's for sure.

It's Blacc, a black boy from Orange County, California, who is perhaps the most authentic of the current crop. Well, at least he looks and sounds the most like Sam Cooke, and is the artist most likely to pull off a version of Smokey Robinson's Heard It Through the Grapevine among the vines this month.

But if you ask me, soul music can be whatever it wants to be as long as it emotes and provokes in its uniquely seductive, yet staunch, way. You know, like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder did. Or my brothers the Temptations.

Though not particularly prolific in her almost 20-year career, it's Badu who has been making some of the most poignant and insightful soul music in recent years on her New Amerykah albums. With her mix of fearless experimentation blending traditional soul with hip-hop, jazz and funk, she has been conjuring up true future soul music. But best of all, it's a little unhinged and strange, and that's what makes it so magical.

Item 2: Speaking of strange, but in a slightly scary way, what a weird one that Madonna lady is. As well as performing at the Superbowl this weekend her royal pop highness was also on New Zealand tele being interviewed by Graham Norton. While the interview was a little old, it made for intriguing viewing. She was Norton's "dream guest" - and considering some of her sharp answers and withering looks she was also his beautiful dark twisted nightmare. Still, you could tell the cheeky Norton loved it and treated his guest with a mix of mischief, respect, and adoration. And Madonna? Well, she was aloof and superior as you'd expect, but amazingly she can actually laugh at herself. Just. She's one odd bird, I tell ya. Still, I probably would be too if I was Madonna. Big ups to her for trotting it out at the Superbowl at the grand old age of 53 though.

Item 3: The most hilarious and entertaining part of that half time performance was seeing dance pop duo LMFAO - made up of two blokes by the names of Redfoo and SkyBlu - thrusting their stuff up on stage with Madge.

These opportunistic bozos have been making mindless music for the masses for a few years now. They are everything I can't stand about pop music. But even before seeing them at the Superbowl, I had slowly started to warm to them - which is different from liking them I'll have you know - these comical chaps with kinky afros. And now I have complete admiration for them because anyone who can give Madonna a shoulder ride in front of 100 million people like Redfoo did is a bona fide pop music genius.


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