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SOUL JONES 2009 BLOG ON MAXWELL
Soul Jones reflects on Maxwell and his video/single, "Pretty Wings"

“I’ve been realllly tryin’
Tryin to hold back this feeling for soooo long,
And if youuu feel, like I feel baby
C’mon, woh c’mon!
Hoooooo LETS GET IT ON
Aaaah baby!”


What if Marvin was gay?

Would it make a difference to the pleasure you get from hearing him sing?

Deep down would it stop you enjoying one of the greatest songs/performances of his career on the passionate “Let’s Get It On”?

Do we think that much of the quirk of the artists own situation? When Marvin Gaye sings “Aaaah baby!” it never enters the mind that the “baby” in question is specifically a person called Janis Hunter, Marvin’s muse and his future wife who was present at the original studio session in 1973. What does strike a chord with the listener is the emotion, urges and feelings that Marvin is passionately singing about. Thoughts we all can relate to and share, no matter the sex, or who the characters or “baby’s” are in our own personal experience. We like the fact it’s about Janis Hunter because it confirms what we can hear – that Marvin is singing from the heart and soul.

Maxwell’s heart and soul is no different. “Pretty Wings” is the first single from Maxwell’s new set “Black Summers Night”, an album first expected for release on the Sony label back in 2006. Why the delay? The word on the www is that the 3 year absence was caused due to Sony’s initial rejection of the “homoerotic” lyrical content. A quick Google for confirmation of the rumours displays more online search results gossiping about Maxwell’s sexuality than you get of the Pope’s. But honestly who really cares exactly what his sexual preference is? Whatever it was it wouldn’t have been any different on “Urban Hang Suite” - Straight and gay people all over the world love that album. What the majority of fans really care about is whether the music is of the same high standard.

“Pretty Wings” begins like a lullaby, the soft chimes reminiscent of D’angelo’s “Africa”. Gently the guitar and rhythm provide the tranquil setting for Maxwell to glide across the verse with his tenor, effortlessly floating towards the chorus. Recalling the break-up Maxwell instigated he sings “I had to set you free”, then he drops some Prince style harmonies on the chorus, his multi tracked falsetto explanation “free to fly your pretty wings around” sounding like a flight of butterflies. As the music builds, the regret dawns on Maxwell until Roy Hargrove-like horns punctuate the longing and pain. By now Max’s floating tenor is replaced by a rasping wail “Someone better’s gonna love you!” which he employs over the now bitter sweet hook. He’s in the funk, right there in the heartbreak storm and not feeling quite as unselfish & philosophical as he was when he first ended it. As Prince once said “The beautiful ones get you every time.”

As pure emotional storytelling “Pretty Wings” is a stunning work of beauty, pain and soul, the kind not heard since Marvin Gaye’s “Here My Dear”. If this is an indication of the suite of songs that will be ‘Black Summers Night’ it could be Maxwell’s defining work. Not the defining work of someone who’s gay or straight, but the defining work of a true artist.



  
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