In the new single “Let’s Party,” critically acclaimed legends of funk that need no introductions, R&B, and pop Kool & the Gang perfectly exemplify that warm feeling that we all get when the sun breaks through the shades at the beginning of a brand-new day. I wouldn’t exactly describe Kool & the Gang as your typical pop band in 2023 for obvious reasons, but it’s impossible not to notice their brilliant use of texture and color to create lush imagery for us to bask in as listeners. Without tripping into experimental or unfamiliar territory, the group manages to evoke all sorts of emotion and imagistic thought with their collective play, and that’s something that isn’t as common as a lot of us like to think it is in music anymore. Once again, it takes a veteran act to prove that pop isn’t rocket science – it’s all about feeling.
When you’re in a band, especially when it’s a band that is as tightly orchestrated and comprised of a multitude of skilled musicians as Kool & the Gang is, it can be difficult to make an individual mark on the ultimate direction, and sound, of the band. Nevertheless, nothing in this track feels like it was compromised on or limited by separate egos or agendas. It’s a cohesive, flowing piece that shows what a group of musicians can do when they’re able to read and play off of each other. And listening to this single, you can tell that their chemistry is as legit as ever before.
In many ways, Kool & the Gang and their work are quite representative of the new dawn on the horizon for the R&B genre as a whole, one that is more inspired by funk and soul than it is the urban electronica that has been so dominant in the scene for the last decade and a half. That’s not to suggest that “Let’s Party” plays out like a throwback per se; quite the contrary. If anything, I think that the fact that this track wears so many of its analog influences on its sleeve is more charming and reflective than it is reproductive or retrospective in nature. The key distinction between these guys and an irrelevant soul group is in their creative edge. They’re willing to try stuff that their forerunners probably wouldn’t have dreamt of doing, even though they’ve covered practically every corner of the map.
Fans of music that is raw, organic, and made completely by musicians and not by computers would do well to give “Let’s Party” from Kool & the Gang a listen the next time that they’re in the market for some new R&B grooves. If you’re as much of a snob about good, funky beats as I am, I trust that you won’t be disappointed in what they find in these solid gold melodies. I know I wasn’t, and I have a feeling this won’t be the only occasion that I have as a beat journalist to talk about this exciting group of multitalented artists and performers still going strong today.