Patrick Stump’s Soul Punk opens on a skip, a scratchy digital jump like when a DJ segues from one record to another. The changeover is quick, almost subliminal, and it feels like a caveat. As if to say “Yes, this is Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy, but this is not a Fall Out Boy record. This is something entirely different.” And nobody is arguing against that.
When Stump announced he was going solo in early 2010—following the news that FOB was going on an indefinite hiatus—reaction was mixed. And as he slowly leaked out new tracks from his one-man endeavor, it became clear that Soul Punk was more than a working title; it would be the overarching theme driving his new direction. But calling Soul Punk a re-imagined (or even interesting) split of the two genres would be a reach. It’s a produced pop record with electronic, danceable bits and vocal harmonies that sometimes seem much too enamored with Michael Jackson worship. And then there are wretches like “Dance Miserable,” which is just awful, with its forced R&B vocalization and clunky synthesizer bass. It’s an early speed-bump on an album already behind on momentum.
Soul Punk does work on some levels, though, with crafted song structures that FOB fans will recognize on “This City” and “Everybody Wants Somebody,” and the hooky melodies and choruses that only Stump could pull off, on “Spotlight (New Regrets).” Then there are the familiar, defiant lyrics from the epic “Run Dry,” as Stump sings, “I don’t have to prove myself to you.” And he’s right—he doesn’t. Especially on an album he wrote, recorded, produced, and played all the instruments on. If anything, at this point, Stump seems much more interested in proving something to himself.