Various Artists

Soul Train Music Awards 2002

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The first in an envisioned continual series, this presents nine tracks related to artists and songs that were nominated for the 16th annual Soul Train Music Awards. It's not necessarily soul, but black popular music, that's covered, including soul, R&B, rap, and gospel. To be honest, some of this is closer to what was starting to get called "neo-soul" than soul music, and it's not the most outstanding (or even most commercially successful) grouping of black popular music tracks that could have been assembled. Nonetheless, if you want to get a flavor of the state of the smoother side of black pop circa the early 21st century, this will expose some of its spectrum. The emphasis is on singers like Alicia Keys and Usher, though rap is heard not only as an influence on arrangements, but also in less diluted form on the cuts by Fabulous with Nate Dogg and Missy Elliot. For some variety, old-schoolers the O'Jays (a lifetime achievement award recipient) are represented by "Let's Ride," and gospel, of the quite mainstream variety, by Donnie McClurkin. It says something about the increased tangled inseparability of various forms of media, doesn't it, when a song appears on a CD compilation because of a nomination for best R&B, soul, or rap video? And it could say something weirder when that song, Elliot's "Get Ur Freak On," turns out to be the best one on the disc.

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