Patrick Stump shouldn’t need any introduction (if you really need one, check out my preview of this album two months ago), so let’s get right into the review. Soul Punk is a bit of a misnomer, while at the same time being the most accurate title imaginable for the record. There’s nothing at all like the “punk” influences of Fall Out Boy‘s early days, and a true “soul” sound is never really found here. Instead, you’ll hear the frontman of one of the scene’s most popular bands writing, singing, and playing (nearly) every part on an album that’s equal parts dance, R&B, and pop. What could be more punk than creating something unexpected just because you want to? The melodies and instrumental parts feel so natural, it’s as if they’ve been living inside of him all this time, eager to come out. Soul Punk. It could mean something for every person, but Stump has found a near-perfect meaning for himself.
Already covered in my August preview of Soul Punk, album opener “Explode” and “Spotlight (New Regrets)” are still overwhelmingly strong tracks, with great songwriting, melodies, and instrumental parts. While the Lupe Fiasco remix of “This City” was covered in that article as well, it deserves some comparison to the original version now that fans are finally able to hear it. Thankfully, a great deal of the song remains the same, from the beat to the chorus to the bridge. A verse from Stump fits into the spot where Lupe’s is in the remix. Stump’s lyrics seem to be more positive than those in Lupe’s part, and they’re definitely less intense in comparison. Oddly, a short instrumental portion precedes the bridge in the original, which seems a bit weird after growing accustomed to hearing the chorus lead directly into it from the remix. Overall, I’d have to say I’m more of a fan of the remix, as it benefits greatly from the hype that Lupe creates in the beginning of the track and the change in pace his verse offers. That said, the song stands well on its own and its quality would not be questioned had the remix never existed.
The first completely new song on the album is “Dance Miserable,” which has more than its fair share of interesting rhythms and melodies. Though the chorus is well-written and the vocalizations in the song are rather impressive, the spoken word portion in the middle comes off as a bit forced. “The ‘I’ In Lie,” on the other hand, is perfection from start to finish. The falsetto verses grow into the huge singalong chorus, with some of the strongest lyrics on the album and parts that beg for audience participation. Words can’t even describe how great it sounds when he holds out the notes near the end of the track.
“Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers)” opens with a great vocal hook before the music kicks in to bring the funk. Though this is the longest track on the album (clocking in at over eight minutes), it never drags or gets boring due to perfect transitions and a seemingly endless selection of melodies to choose from. Even though Stump says “I don’t have to prove myself to you,” that is exactly what he does, both with the album and this track in particular. Going solo and covering a completely new range of sounds, he’s proved that he’s capable of creating great music outside the realm of what he did in Fall Out Boy.
The following track, “Greed,” is the only track on the album that doesn’t really stick with me after listening. There’s nothing inherently bad (or even anything less than good) about it, as it’s certainly a good listen on its own. The “pop your white collars up” portion in particular is pretty fun, but it seems that the track is just outshone by the tracks before and after, not to mention that the last minute and a half of the track is an instrumental buildup to “Everybody Wants Somebody,” which has become one of my favorite tracks. Since it and “Allie,” both great tracks, were already covered in the album preview, some extra attention should go to “Coast (It’s Gonna Get Better),” which works as an album closer before the Fiasco remix of “This City.” Full of positivity, this is the sort of song that should be playing anytime times are rough. The melodies are some of the best on the album, the backing vocals are great, and the music fits with the words perfectly. It’s like a sigh of relief to the intensity and anxiety of “Explode” from the beginning of the album, ending the album on the right note.
Of the ten (eleven if you account for the remix of “This City”) tracks on this album, nine are ones I find myself singing at one point or another throughout my day. Say what you want about Patrick Stump, but the man knows how to craft melodic perfection, and Soul Punk proves that he is capable of writing the words to fit those hooks. He makes me want to be an unfaithful, greedy, miserably dancing alcoholic with some hidden skill who knows that it’s gonna get better. It should be noted that this review doesn’t do justice to how well the instrumental parts on this album go together. Everything from the guitars to the synth to the drums finds the perfect rhythm for the melody, and the instrumental melodies at times almost match the quality of what he sings. From start to finish, there is no filler on this record. Soul Punk proves that Stump is not only a gifted vocalist, but that he can write and play everything it takes to make a quality album.