Kenny Rogers, Kim Carnes and James Ingram - "What About Me?"

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Yes, that says Kenny Rogers, and Kim Carnes, too, and as for James Ingram, well, he's always seemed a bit Caucasian as a vocalist, at least to these ears. And yes, this song, a top 15 pop hit in '85, was written by - wait for it - Richard Marx. All of that, however, makes this no less a soul song, if a kind of white-soul (which is not the same as blue-eyed-soul) song. It belongs here, period.

First of all, Rogers has got an absurdly great - and soulful, natch - voice. I think he might be to country-pop what Luther Vandross is to R&B music, an immaculate singer, utterly pure of tone, and capable of wringing any emotion from a song (by which I also mean he can imbue a song with any emotion he chooses). Carnes' voice is by and large the leather to Kenny's lace, all rasp and growl, reminiscent of a butcher Nicollete Larson. The addition of Ingram adds an element of smooth, cool soul; even on the likes of "Just Once," he's never been one to get overexcited.

Let's say Aretha Franklin did "What About Me?" as a triad with Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle - no one would question its soul credentials. While Rogers/Carnes/Ingram may not be vocalists of the caliber of Franklin/McDonald/LaBelle (though I'll argue Rogers over McDonald), they're no less soulful; they're simply soulful in a different way. The song itself is about a classic soul topic, a love triangle, handled expertly by this trio of expert singers. (They're nothing if not professional.) "What About Me?" oozes pain as it dares you to turn away from the pile-up, the carnage, the aftermath. While hearing Franklin/McDonald/LaBelle, say, would be interesting, it wouldn't be better - or, in this case, more soulful. Kenny and company nail it on one of the most soulful songs to make the country charts in the mid-'80s.