A few notes to guide you before reading this post:
I’ve never particularly liked Joss Stone. On a scale of 1 to Amy Winehouse, Joss has always been about a 3 in my book. It never helped that my first impression of her was her horrific cover of “Fell in Love With a Girl.”
I love revivalist soul. Raphael Saadiq. Anyone affiliated with Mark Ronson (Daniel Merriweather, Amy Winehouse), Shirley Jones and the Dap Kings–all of it.
My love for old school soul revival overcomes Joss Stone’s occasionally mind boggling lyrics and a weak concept on her new track “Governmentalist.”
Truth is Stone sings the hell out of this one. The lyrics essentially amount to political posturing that points to a fandom of the substantial social criticism of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and the Temptations (to name a few). But none of “Governmentalist’s” verbal vapidity seems to matter. This track simmers with the sultry fire of a low-lit club. It rides a smoky and hypnotic groove (which could easily be construed as repetitive) that never rises above a slow burn, hinting at climaxes that never fully erupt. This formula closely mirrors some of Stone’s clear soul idols (Wonder and the Temptations in particular come to mind, given their proclivity for longer pieces that often built to a point without bursting into full-on wall of sound mode) and it works nicely here.
And a Nas verse? Necessary icing. The Ghostface to Stone’s Amy Winehouse. Nothing Nas hasn’t said before (lines about standing with Ugandan youth and genetically engineered food place his verse somewhere in the realm between “One Mic” rallying call and the paranoia of Mos Def’s “New World Water”), but it just makes a perfect addition to a track that might otherwise fall flat.
There’s better revivalist soul out there. Daniel Merriweather’s album is wonderful. Adele has some great songs. And, of course, there’s the perennially under-appreciated Saadiq, whose 2008 album The Way I See It is a highly satisfying and riotously fun release. For now, this is a nice diversion. Until Amy Winehouse cleans her life up or Americans start paying attention to Merriweather. Whichever happens first.