On the Record: Patrick Stump – Soul Punk

On the earlier Fall Out Boy records, singer Patrick Stump’s undeniably powerful voice seemed confined by standard pop-punk/emo vocals. With the last two releases from the band, 2007’s Infinity on High and 2008’s (excellent) Folie à Deux, Stump began moving away from those trappings, experimenting with different styles, adding R & B and soul textures to tracks like “What a Catch, Donnie” and “I’m Like a Lawyer with the Way I’m Always Trying to Get You Off.” When the band went on hiatus, Stump forged ahead, and 2011 saw the release of his full-length solo debut, Soul Punk.

Those R & B and soul textures are brought to the forefront on Soul Punk. There’s absolutely nothing here that resembles Stump’s work with Fall Out Boy, and the album is all the better for it. Though it sounds thoroughly modern in its production, with Soul Punk Stump digs deep into exuberant Michael Jackson and Prince territory on floor-filling tracks like “Greed,” “Spotlight (New Regrets),” and the phenomenal “Run Dry (X Heart X Fingers).”

Stump refines his songwriting skills here, too, embedding each song with catchy melodies and bright, anthemic choruses, such as on lead single and Chicago love letter “This City” or the Hall & Oates circa H2O “The ‘I’ in Lie.” Stump is a charming singer, and the positive messages on “This City,” “Spotlight,”  and the album-closing “Coast (It’s Gonna Get Better)” come across as wholly genuine and never crass or baiting (as, say, Lady Gaga sometimes does). He’s able to change mood o the stop of a dime, though, being alternately sexy (“Allie”) and sardonic (“Run Dry”) without breaking the flow of the album. Stump has managed to produce an engaging mainstream pop record that doesn’t feel calculated or mechanical, which is a feat in itself, considering Stump wrote, produced, performed the album himself.  This is how a pop record should sound in 2011.