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Unlike the similarly termed "blue-eyed" soul, "plastic" soul was considered especially kitschy and insincere compared to "true" soul music. In the eyes of soul music devotees, songs and albums described as "plastic soul" were those which seemed to be cheap attempts at replicating the characteristic sounds and qualities of soul music without truly understanding or genuinely representing the genre, either out of actual ignorance, poor taste, or simply to capitalize on the popular sound. "Blue-eyed soul", however, merely refers to soul music performed and/or written by white artists, particularly when that artist incorporates white-specific cultural elements into their music that are not typical of classic soul.
Paul McCartney referenced the phrase as the name of the Beatles 1965 album Rubber Soul, which was inspired by the term "plastic soul". In a studio conversation recorded in June 1965 after recording the first take of "I'm Down", McCartney says "Plastic soul, man. Plastic soul." David Bowie also described his own funky, soulful songs released in the early to mid-1970s as "plastic soul". These singles sold well, and Bowie became one of the few white performers to be invited to perform on Soul Train. In a 1976 Playboy interview, Bowie described his recent album Young Americans as "the definitive plastic soul record. It's the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak, written and sung by a white limey." Bowie's most commercially successful album, Let's Dance, has also been described as plastic soul.
- The Beatles (2000). The Beatles Anthology. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 194. ISBN 0-8118-2684-8.
- Anthology 2 (booklet). The Beatles. London: Apple Records. 1996. 34448.
- "Interview with David Bowie". Playboy. September 1976.
- Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 March 2016.