NPR

Disturb This Groove: What Is The Legacy Of Soul Music?

Recent questions about R&B, covers, karaoke and cultural appropriation that were ignited by an offhand comment about Bruno Mars made by Meshell Ndegeocello get a workout in the bassist's new album.
Meshell Ndegeocello's album Ventriloquism is a collection of covers of R&B songs from the 1980s and '90s. Source: Charlie Gross

Recently, I found myself flirting with the clerk at a clothing store. Discovering his interest in the outdoors, I remarked that I'd been reading about a great hike outside L.A., one that promised some spectacular vistas, including a waterfall. Without missing a beat, he responded "Oh, I don't go chasing waterfalls."

As gentle deflections like this suggest, great pop songs like TLC's "Waterfalls" become ingrained in our casual speech. They provide generational, even intergenerational points of reference. Anyone who has ever had an argument about whether Alanis Morrisette's song "Ironic" is or not knows what I'm talking about. But the means by which such songs achieve enduring mass appeal tend to rely upon the most formulaic musical elements. As you age out of pop's target demographic, it can prove hard to remain a "poptimist." Poptimism is a sensibility that persists in finding artistic merit and emotional depth at the top of the charts. It's easy, maybe obligatory, to be a poptimist when you're 18. But as the

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