switched on pop

Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’ and the Unending Relevance of ’70s Soul

“I realized that classic soul can exist with everything and somehow not lose its potency.”

In their latest installment of Switched On Pop’s Modern Classics series, Nate Sloan and Charlie Harding speak to the four-time Grammy-nominated musician, singer, and songwriter Yola about her new record, Stand for Myself, and how hearing Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” and all its references to 1970s funk encouraged Yola to unlock her own unprecedented mix of symphonic soul and classic pop.

As Yola tells it, it’s not just a sound from the past that she’s conjuring, it’s a sense of possibility. Progenitors like Funkadelic, Minnie Riperton, and the O’Jays, she says, combined political protest with deep grooves, what Yola calls “the Mary Poppins philosophy of music” (the groove being the spoonful of sugar to help the socially conscious medicine go down).

With this marriage of music and statement, Yola makes retro sounds relevant again, as on the title track, “Stand for Myself,” where she uses throwback slap bass, fuzz guitar, and orchestral strings to craft a distinctly modern message about her identity as a Black woman, cultural allyship, and U.K. politics. Also, she talks about why she likes mixes that sound like they have a “big old booty.”

Childish Gambino’s ‘Redbone’ and the Relevance of ’70s Soul