R&B Isn’t Dead, But It’s Comatose

Marvin Gaye in 1973
I don’t know what’s going on, either, Marvin. We miss your voice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Watching Good Morning America last week, I saw will.i.am and Kelly Clarkson announce the American Music Award nominees for 2013. I should not have been surprised when head shots of Miguel, Robin Thicke, and Justin Timberlake popped up on the screen. But I was, and I tried to shrug the unnameable disappointment off.

R&B/soul is my favorite genre of music. I pride myself in knowing the most obscure of forgotten groups from the 90s (Blaque, anyone?) There are whole swaths of hip-hop albums I’m ignorant of (for several reasons) mainly because I was knee-deep in Sade, Troop, Tony Terry, Peabo Bryson, Jade, En Vogue, and other talented R&B artists. Their music flooded my ears and provided the soundtrack for my formative years.

I’ll just be frank. The racial landscape of R&B looked drastically different then. Occasionally, a white artist broke through like Robin Thicke and Remy Shand, building on a tradition of blue-eyed soul by esteemed artists, (i.e Michael McDonald). I have tremendous respect for all artists who are dedicated to the sound and aesthetic of soul music.

But permit me a moment to mourn the fact that a genre traditionally dominated by black musicians is now legitimately predominately white. This is not a charge of appropriation, despite the controversial allegations of Thicke borrowing liberally from Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” for the summer hit “Blurred Lines.” This is a fan complaining.

Timberlake performing at St. Paul, Minnesota, ...
Pop is the new face of R&B (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

Black R&B is riding on the same runaway train that hip-hop is on. A pattern occurs every two years: an R&B artist gains popularity, rappers take notice, and then said singer features on every new rap single for the next 12 months. It happened with Trey Songz, who featured on 10 rap singles between 2009-2011, but only 2 in 2012-2013. Miguel currently is rap’s golden feature crooner.

Rap bleeds into R&B via phrasing and imagery. Take, for instance, “I Invented Sex,” a wildly popular song where Trey rap-sings, “He ain’t in your world, you can take him off your atlas/ Girl, you on fire can I be the one you match with.” Haha. Clever. But he crams all those words into too-short bars and forces a staccato effect to his singing. Attempts like these to include forced lyricism in songs that have been traditionally well-paced blur the lines (pun intended) between rap and its sultrier cousin. RL from the group Next also noticed this phenomenon.

So where are all the black R&B artists? They’re still out there, but nowhere near as prominent as before. To be sure, the cross-genre popularity of Thicke and Timberlake contributes to their place in the AMA nomination list. Billboard combines the rankings for R&B and Hip-Hop, but a quick scroll shows that there are far more popular hip-hop albums than that of R&B.

As always, the solution is support. I bought Raheem DeVaughn’s September 3 release of A Place Called Loveland, and it’s growing on me. As yesterday’s R&B becomes more of an underground genre, fans will just have to keep their ears closer to the ground for music that brings back that old feeling. Til then, we can only hope R&B wakes up from this coma.

158 thoughts on “R&B Isn’t Dead, But It’s Comatose

  1. Wow I like the urb-pop title, I usually say hip pop. You know, instead of hip hop. It’s saddening. I miss R&B. Times have changed. so has our music. Our music is our soul.But even ppl who love R&B, dont love it enough to purchase Cd’s, they just illegally download or get them from the “cd man”. So no support…and here we are. Buy what you love people! Save R&B! It tells our story.

  2. any body remember David Porters’ Hang on sloopy? when the pin dropped from her dress……it was on!!!!!! and I can’t see you when I want to?

  3. Funny you bring up Pitbull. I was never a huge fan, but I was remarking to my husband the other day about how his career is TOTALLY pop now, with Hispanic tinges. I can’t knock his hustle, but the sound of urban music in general is now urb-pop, with more money coming from a broader audience.

  4. Hello there. Very interesting point of vue. Can not disagree with that.
    I was surprised that somebody (you) actually said that. Which is great. However it is not that surprising. R’N’B has lost of it’s true energy and soul since producers started working on the instrumental versions just like a beat maker in rap. By that, I mean that they literally wanted to give R’N’B a very street and urban feel to it. Even more since the 2000’s.
    You are talking about artists such as Sade, Blaque, En Vogue, etc. Most of these people where at the top of their career before 2000. Everything changed ever since. Was it because of the new millennium? To be honest, I believe so and feel that pupeteers in the music industry wanted to make music more… Futuristic and less organic. Even more since 2005. The amount of artists singing over trance and techno sounding tracks is ridiculous. Between Pitbull who left his Dirty South rap for a more mainstream and clubby sound, David Guetta collaborating with Akon, Kelly Rowland and others, I mean, they want to make money easily and fast, which is fair, but at least if they where doing it in a cleverer way and less monetised, maybe I’d listen more to them. But… Not yet. So I agree with you and mostly listen to a lot of music that was created before 2000 (except for electronic music which is getting better each year).

  5. When he sung at the Soul Train awards. I was singing at the top of lungs every word from memory. Play me some hall and oates, doobie brothers and the list goes on.
    I just love good music. Touch my soul. Touch my heart. Make me feel every word, beat and note.

  6. The winners of the AMA are pop artist. The songs that won them the awards are pop songs. I don’t have either winner’s songs in any of my collections. I am true to R&B that is soulful with a deep message. SMH…

  7. Reblogged this on tanelldbyers and commented:
    I really wish we had the old school way of making music was still around because we need it today. Not to say that a lot of these singers cant sing but, I wish they would really sing and stop try to sing.

  8. I’m afraid I don’t have much to add! I’m only a music fan and not an expert at all. But the pops on vinyl do give music a vintage feel. Kind of like the scratches on CDs put pauses in…no? okay. lol.

  9. I guess my perspective comes from composing music without, and then with a computer. Without, the music is played on real instruments. There are flaws that tho you don’t necessarily hear, you do miss their absence.
    You’re old school, do you miss the pops on gently worn vinyl? Sorry to be long winded. Listen to my piece on notmeresound.word…. Let’s talk more about the depth, width, and color of music when it’s articulated

  10. “Music has become no more than a vehicle for grand visual performing.”

    When you put it that way, it sounds like something sweeping and intriguing. Maybe it is is! I am beginning to wonder if I should re-calibrate my ears to listen to the music differently, and maybe my perspective would change.

  11. How you ‘splained the somewhat diminished state of lyrics is well stated. I’ve been thinking about this for a good while. Seems that the art of song craft has taken a turn toward ‘ lyrical stream of conscious ‘. Maybe this is in keeping with the much wider use in electronics in the composition and production of music. Loops, cut ‘n paste, quantize. The breathing in a lot of music is artificially induced, so the lyrics often run unPUNCTUATED. Music has become no more than a vehicle for grand visual performing. Do we listen anymore?
    notmeresound.wordpress….

  12. I am a big En Vogue fan too. And I love Diana Ross and the Supremes. I really miss D’ Angelo. I wish he would come back.

  13. At least we still have Maxwell. But as far as R&B groups go they just don’t make them like they use to. I am a big En V

  14. Thank you, James! And you’re right about those rosy glasses. That tint messes with your memory. You keep making music yourself and help even out the dismal we often hear on the radio. 🙂

  15. There has always been bad music, made by folk with dollar signs in their mind. Occasionally this turns out well, more often, not. But there is also always good music happening, it’s just easier to see in hindsight. The filter of history renders a great clarity.
    There is also a danger of looking back, you always see the past thru a golden glass. There is good new music happening right now! You just have to find it. I am a professional, independent musician and I continually find new great music, it is easier than ever. But you have to really want it….
    http://jamesradcliffe.com/
    Really enjoyed the blog. Keep it coming.

  16. Essence had a Twitter chat about R&B groups and it brought to mind how rare groups are these days. All the artists you just named were in groups. I guess the industry lost its taste for that… 😦

  17. Yah man I miss R&B from the 90s too. It just sounded like that was the way R&B artists were supposed to sound. A few of my faves were SWV, Blackstreet, Boys II Men. Most music I hear these days that is classified as R&B sounds more like pop to me.

  18. apparently EDM is loosely an american term for dance music. i read it somewhere on a website. it was previously called ‘electronica’ (i read this on wikipedia’s electronic dance music page).

    american RnB artists, producers, remixers who jumped on the EDM/pop bandwagon, no longer saw the U.S as a market for EDM, which explains why the EDM sound has taken over pop, RnB music, outside of north america and made its way towards europe.

    we might as well call it dance music, instead of EDM or electronic dance music. as dance music is created using electronic musical equipment like mixing decks synthesizers, drum machines, so therefore dance music is still dance music.

    i agree with what you said on R&B artists like Ne-Yo who define themselves by their vocals, as opposed to the music they make. what these artists need to understand, is their fans who loved their previous material when they first broke out as stars – songs like sexy love, so sick, when you’re mad, mad. it was those people that made them who they are…., and for those singers to go in the complete opposite direction, make awful EDM songs like that alice deejay better off alone sample, ‘Play Hard’ with David Guetta and Akon, just goes against what they stood for, before as R&B artists.

  19. You just taught me something there. I don’t know very much about EDM or electronica. But I’ve heard remnants of it in Ne-Yo’s music and in Usher’s, too. Some of it is okay, but most is annoying. I think R&B artists define themselves more by the quality of their vocals than by the track they accompany…Ne-Yo skirts that line a LOT.

  20. EDM (which is known as electronic dance music) has infiltrated R&B music and ruined it completely. as well as pop and R&B, i like euro dance from the 90s.

    i think the success of euro dance that time must’ve led producers and remixers like david guetta thinking it would be a good idea to combine both R&B and dance together.

    dance and R&B should remain completely separate from each other.

    it’s not just R&B music that is in a crisis today, but the dance scene is having a similar problem as well. i read that one person summed up EDM having become an entire generation’s pop music. i’d say the say for mainstream R&B but instead of an entire generation, EDM has become almost 3 or 4 years worth of R&B. And the soul from it, is well, non-existent.

  21. Oh, I have his earlier music. Even back when he did “Get You Alone”. I love it, but if what they are doing now is our future for a good 10 to 15 years, I quit. LOL.

    I’m definitely alright with R&B/hip hop mash-ups though. I mean if Aaliyah isn’t a prime example, I don’t know who is. But of course it was better in the 90s then it is now.

  22. Falsetto used to be like the Holy Grail of male R&B singing. Everybody CAIN’T do it right! But Lawd, if Maxwell don’t quit playing with my emotions and come out with another falsetto-loving album lol.

    Robin Thicke is the truth though. If you haven’t yet, you should check out his earlier albums, and even “The Evolution of Robin Thicke” is a great one. I got nothing bad to say about him 😀

  23. Lord have mercy, THANK YOU SOOO MUCH! LOL.
    I am sooo glad to know that someone else feels this way! I am so sick of the falsetto “musicians” who claim to be singing. If I don’t get some sort of K-Ci (from Jodeci) in this generation, I might just die. I’m only 20, but I grew up in a music oriented family, so 90s R&B is all over my IPod.

    I hinted at this in my own post (http://kipekeenanzuri.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/90s-nostalgia/)

    This take over is riving me nuts. From Robin Thicke (although, I have to admit, I like a few of his songs), Justin Timberlake, and even the new Ariana Grande. She may have a set of pipes, but her music does NOT show it. I mean, does everyone now think they have to rap/sing, or go falsetto? It’s awful. Come back to me 90s. We need you. LOL

  24. You know, a Jamaican friend of mine was a very stringent dancehall fan and made a distinction between pre-US launch Sean Paul and post-US Sean Paul. He felt Sean Paul’s music was watered down with less patois and a more Americanized sound. After thinking about how R&B is more hip-hop over the last 10 years, I kinda know how he felt.

  25. I am a fan of the Reggae genre, among others, and had not noticed how R&B had been watered down and systematically blended with POP and Hip-Hop until reading this post which breaks it down and cites some very good examples. I have also watched this happen to the music that Bob Marley made famous across the globe.

  26. I agree, a different perception always broadens the scope! Allow me to throw a temper tantrum for my lost youth; there will NEVER be another “Poison!” LOL. 🙂

  27. I like Tyrese the singer, but his extracurricular activities writing have me giving him a side eye and reluctant to listen to TGT. But I admit that’s a flimsy bias 🙂

    Melting pot music is a great way to put it. Like with anything melted, it needs to be stirred up to gain a uniform consistency. Sooo, let’s hope somebody comes in and stirs the pot about so it can gain its equilibrium! lol

  28. Wonderful insight into the genre’s current status. I appreciate your knowledge of the subject matter. R&B is a powerful art form and it’s all but gone from sight these days. Everything is a mixture, melting pot music, with bits and pieces blended together to accommodate the record labels and radio stations. It’s been a gift and a curse.

    Have you given TGT a listen? Tyrese has been intent on bringing R&B back. But, I can’t speak on how successful he’s been in his mission.

    Keep writing! Keep listening!

    I hope it all gets better.

  29. Oh man, no problem I enjoyed it : ) and yes I definitely do believe nostalgia has a great impact in our (formative) years that effects us. I think this definitely goes for music, like definitely definitely goes for music lol. So yes I can imagine your mama and her mama before her had the “turnt” face so to speak at music that their children were listening to because the sound they once heard had evolved on to something different. What is good to us may not be at all what they would call good lol and the same goes for us and the generation to come and thats here. Its crazy I know but that is just how it works I am seeing :/ lol

  30. Thank you for reading, man, I appreciate it. Sometimes I wonder if it’s just nostalgia that tints everything in our formative years a rosy color. I know my mama wondered what mess I was listening to in the 90s lol. Wouldn’t be surprised if her mom said the same thing about her.

  31. You guys are so awesome man. I love all of you’ll perspective. The light and direction you can look at the current blog title at and in; which many different ways, is just phenomenal. I do think that all of our opinions goes back to evolution and its relativity. I think it was just meant for sound and music to evolve and every generation that listens to that genre of music then in whichever era that maybe; usually adopts and gravitate towards that sound. And it becomes dominate and has this impact on your life and you will personally hold it to a high esteem and anything else that tries to come up to it will have to match it or it will fall to the wayside more times than none. It’s just the way life is in anything I would guess. Cartoons for ex: I personally believe that cartoons of the 80’s and early 90’s will always be the best and it will be hard for me to bring something to compare them to. Not saying that they don’t make good cartoons today but I guess time has evolved on from but yet still nothing will be better than Jem and the holograms or He-man in my opinion (LOL). So I said that to say that I think the era and genre of music and the way it made us feel emotionally at that time will always be important to us. And when that seems to be slipping away, its sort of tough to deal with. But its only evolution and we have to either adapt or go retro or make the music and sound we’d like to hear. So no I don’t think R&B is dead or I wouldn’t even say its comatose but it has evolved and whats being commercialized people tend to get complacent with. But if you search, you will hear some really, really good stuff I found out. Now I really do wish that creativity could be tapped into more in r&b music today. That would be a nice jolt for that genre. Because some of it can be rather repetitive. Anyways Dara thank you for this post, it was really really good and I hope everyone that reads can take something from it.

  32. Lol. I tell you. I love drake though, without a doubt. In some was I feel he’s trying to bridge a gap between rap and r&b( or should I say : neo soul). The way he sort of refers back to the old style of rap, is just phenomenal. As for mr west, lol. We’ll lets watch and see

  33. His voice is amazing. But it was just really awkward for me. He was thrusting the mic stand and the stags. Keep in mind this was before he was big, small show at the house of blues.

  34. LOL! Two step indeed. I see your point about emotionalism and raise you one: I think rap is more emotional than (or just as emotional) as R&B. Kanye and Drake, the butt of most rap-centered jokes, have made it so the most popular sentiment in rap right now…is SENTIMENTALISM. LOL.

  35. I think the problem isn’t just the radio stations, I think the problem is rooted down to the audience/ market segment. Think about it, back when you were bumping to kc and jojo, you were young, and emotional ( cuz we all know r&b is the emotional wonder if the world(or was)), and so were so many other people at that point in time, it was an emotional era, heart felt, passionate, soulful, and that era produced exceptional acts that could tap into our psyche and give us that rhythm for our hearts. But as time went by, and as most of us got older and made way for the new generation, a lot of great artists faded away with the wind of change that came with the new age consciousness. Although some artists ( usher and co) managed to tailor their talent in the direction that fitted the new age pop/ mass culture.
    As for rap, let’s be honest, they don’t make rap/rappers like they used to. Rap is consciousness, and all I hear on radio these days ( in place of rap) is a whole load if garbage. But hey, when u hear it in the clubs, you do the two step. Lol

  36. I liked Miguel a lot when he first came out. I think he’s maintained his initial aesthetic and musical style…buuut he’s not my fave. That song with him and Mariah Carey felt like he was guest backup singer, rather than a duet partner. She outsang him. It’s too bad he didn’t give a great live show 😦 Not many do, these days.

  37. R&B is also my favorite genre. I often stray to alternative, indie, metal, but R&B is always faithful to me. How do you feel about Miguel? I am in love with him and his voice. However, live, he disappointed me.

  38. So true! I did love”white-black-girl” P!nk, although, I agree that her current music still kills. She can’t lose with her voice. And I have a soft spot for alternative rock, too.

    And I think Bey is probably the most successful traditional R&B artist of our decade. She gets love from the mainstream but has managed to maintain a sound that is uniquely hers, uniquely R&B. Good points you made!

  39. it’s so sad.

    i also forgot to mention that thankfully the likes of beyonce have yet to be sucked in by this autotune, pop-dance rachetness. hopefully, she continues to make R&B music that fans, especially her fans have enjoyed. i know a lot of people say she is more of a pop star than an R&B diva these days. but to me, she is still R&B and unlike many R&B artists, i don’t think she has released a song that sounded like the pop-dance tracks by rihanna, nicki minaj.

    i loved pink when she released the can’t take me home LP. although i still like some of her songs today, i wished she released more singles in the style of ‘you make me sick’, ‘some girls’, ‘family portrait’, ‘stupid girls’ and ‘there you go’.

    thank goodness for beyonce, alicia keys, brandy, angie stone and deborah cox for staying true to their urban music roots.

  40. And sometimes I wonder if the elders look at our current favorites and ask us why we listen to that garbage. 🙂 Coma indeed. Maybe it’s generational?

  41. I a 24 yrs old female from Brooklyn, NY. When I was 17, I’ve decided to get into the music industry. I did what any other person did who wanted to become a phenomenal singer, I took vocal lessons. As I was perfecting my voice, I dug into crates. I fell more in love for Marvin, Earth, Wind and Fire, Al Green, Phyllis Hyman, La Chic and many others. Fast forward, I gave up on music career because of the BS they wanted me to sing. I HATE the crap I hear on the radio. It is nothing in comparison to what the elders used to listen. So I do understand your pain. Hopefully, music, in totality, will wake up from this COMA.

  42. Oh, nooo, you mistake my point. I’m actually a pretty big Justin Timberlake fan, from ‘N Sync through Justified up til now. My specific gripe is that quality BLACK R&B artists are either missing from the scene or less promoted, to the point where white, pop-adopted artists are more prominent.

    Nobody back in the day bested Alexander O’Neal, Patti LaBelle, or Anita Baker at the R&B game. There were too many black artists out there for white artists to dominate that genre. Considering that Timberlake and Thicke are making the best R&B music out right now, I can’t think of any black R&B artists prominent enough to challenge that assertion. Their success isn’t bad; I’m a fan of both. But I say coma because I don’t think that 2013 has been the best year for R&B overall.

    Drake is hybrid. I don’t know what’d I’d classify him as. I like his style, but in terms of vocals, he is a pretty passable singer…that’s it. If Eric Benet, with HIS vocal ability, got the traction that Nothing Was the Same did?? We wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

  43. While I’m not necessarily mad at the R&B artists you mentioned for selling to the pop market (more money, after all), I agree with you in wishing that R&B with its fundamental elements was as popular as pop. That way, I wouldn’t have to hear about great music only on Internet threads. 🙂

    And maaan, I didn’t even think about groups! Who was the last successful R&B male OR female group? They don’t make em like they used to, for real.

  44. You made a lot of good points but still don’t understand why you say Justin Timberlake and the rest of the artist you mentioned have the R and B music genre in a “coma”. I just feel like they all bring a little different piece of their selves to the genre making it better and more interesting to listen to. I don’t know if you consider Drake as a R and B artist but he has changed the game for the better. A lot of older R and B artist catch themselves listening to Drake’s love songs and his style he brings to music. R and B isn’t the same but i consider it as a improvement rather then anything else.

  45. I found this post after seeing a link posted on twitter so i had to check it out. i couldn’t agree with you more. i honestly feel that RnB music is having an identity crisis. i wrote in a blog post that almost every song today sounds the same as everyone else’s with the overuse of autotune, electro pop/dance sound.

    this has stripped away RnB’s authentic soulful, silky smooth offerings.

    many of these RnB artists such as rihanna, usher, ne-yo, jason derulo have crossed over to pop. the music they make is not RnB, it is pop dance music.

    i feel disillusioned that a music genre that i grew up with during the 80s and 90s alongside pop, has descended into something that is far from the RnB that I knew and love. The mainstream music industry don’t care for RnB groups- to them, they don’t see them as being profitable so therefore, they don’t support them.

    instead, they just continue to stick to artists being solo…. only to have them hook up with a rapper and throw in an awful pop dance instrumental.

    mainstream RnB is far from dead, but the direction it is heading towards right now, i surely hope it is a phase and it is over in 2, 3 years time.

  46. Amen! The hope can always be that as long as a spark remains, a fire can grow. Music needs to wear so many faces and carry so many feelings. It’s a heavy load that needs to be shared between generations; and cultures; and genders; and experiences. For many it might be fine, but for me twerkin just ain’t workin. It used to be about soul not surface. I suddenly have the urge to listen to some Peabo…

  47. I think that’s the danger of growing older…all the things our parents cherished become like relics. I dread the day when Marvin Gaye goes the way of Harold and the Blue Notes for my daughter. Unless we play classic Gospel and Blues and other genres for our kids, they will not carry them forward. And that is truly sad.

  48. I came across this entry by accident and am glad that I did. Having two musical sons (drums, sax, bass, acoustic) I recently pointed them to some of the classic R&B from the 70’s and 80’s that I really enjoyed and now sorely miss. They have an eyelid and a little bit of one ear turning there, slowly, slowly.

    I am a long-time fan of many types of music but gravitate mostly to Jazz from the late 40’s through the mid 60’s (Miles, Trane, Bill Evans, Brubeck, Dexter Gordon, Chet Baker, Charlie Parker, Mulligan….you know, all THAT Jazz!)

    Also, Blues. Muddy, Robert Johnson, Sarah Vaughan, John Lee, Billie H…

    And Gospel?

    Where has all that gone? Is it gone? Who is turning our kids on to all that? There are sadly almost no good Jazz stations on the air in Chicago (forget about Blues) anymore (where did Ramsey Lewis go?) and, yeah, there are a lot of other sources for music these days but you have to be looking for them. Who is showing the kids?

    At least in our house, besides what they listen to in general, my kids are learning to like Jazz and actually starting to play some of it thankfully. Blues will be a much harder sell but I”ll be tryin. I’ll be tryin…

  49. “But, there may be help, what if a rap artist decided to teach algebra thru rap music, or math, history, do you think it may turn into a valuable educational tool?”

    I don’t think it’s far off. Check out Dr. Christopher Emdin and what he’s doing to introduce kids to science through hip-hop. It’s good stuff.

  50. I don’t know about that…even just New Jack Swing sounded differently than another era of 70s R&B, like funk, for instance. What do you listen to?

  51. HaHa, I have not been asked to Preach in a long time, thank you, you are a sweetheart. Luther is a great example, Barry White, someone mentioned Boyz to Men, there are artists that break all barriers. that is a wonderful thing. but we must keep in mind who still runs the business, who puts out these award shows, who makes the magazines that promote todays music. yes things have changed, but not all that much. however, we are moving in the right direction and that is what counts.

  52. Cash flows , so rap music sold, the thing is this, R & B lovers getting old, and so the rap music sold, sweet sounds of the Drifters, The Impressions, with Curtis Mayfield, The Supremes, Berry White and all of these artist, shall we say, is old. The sad part is, rap music, hip hop, is a large part of sexually trash submitted lyrics and over weighted with violent induced ideas directed toward our youth in America and internationally as well, all for the money. But, there may be help, what if a rap artist decided to teach algebra thru rap music, or math, history, do you think it may turn into a valuable educational tool? Here is a line, ” I pulled my pants up and brought a belt, going to school now and far away from hell.” So, keep wishing and hoping!!

  53. Ahhh seems like Michael was asked to join Boys II Men in their reunion & Vegas gig; but he declined. I didn’t realize the reason he left back in early 2000s was due to chronic back issues..Ouch!

  54. Wow! It is amazing how well you know music in general, let alone the RnB. I respect this article more than anything. It evokes deep thought. Why is the industry trying to manipulate the sound of soul? There are many artists out there who do it but aren’t recognized. Why? Thank you for the thought provoking blog. My wonder is what you’d think of a take I had of why some artists in the industry are successful http://wp.me/p3XZqY-1M (Why Miley’s Wrecking Ball Should Inspire Us All) check it out, please let me know what you think? I’d truly value your take on it. 🙂

  55. Sade, Troop, EnV….are all still awesome. What do you think of Donnell Jones? I love his stuff. I do like Miguel, but I agree that he isn’t RnB. I will have to get Raheem DeVaughn’s~ A Place Called Loveland. I am sure it will be good. Great thoughts here as another music lover.
    ~~~Felicia

  56. “Like I said, they don’t have to do the dirty work, we do it FOR them.”

    :::applauds::: You killed that. I’m going to throw some dollars in the offering plate now.

  57. Oh yes, and I’m a huge Prince fan. I guess I put him in a whole different category. He could get right nasty, but then he’ll do something like Little Red Corvette which is all figurative — “other jockeys that were there before me” heh heh heh I think in old school R&B sometimes you just couldn’t hear what they were saying anyway. The instrumentation was fuller and the recordings courser and some words couldn’t be said on the radio so they had to find others. Some of the old school lyrics were stupid too, though, or annoying — the old “I want to make love all night long” — okay, so you like sex. What else you got, that’s nothing new, bro. Or Earth, Wind and Fire, who I love but — “Make love ’til I’m satisfied” Say what? Please, honey, at least acknowledge that I ought to be getting something out of the deal.

  58. “WHY aren’t black R&B artists getting the promo that rap does?”

    Because rap is all about dehumanizing women, especially Black women and calling Black people ‘n****rs’ and that is not what R&B was all about. The white man sitting in the executive suite does not have to call us the ‘N’ word, we are doing that for him. That is the main reason why rap has basically killed R&B. As you have pointed out, rap IS promoted over R&B.

    I saw a picture of a Black male rapper and a female at the Grammy Awards and both had the ‘N’ word proudly displayed on their t-shirts. See:
    http://shelbycourtland.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/nigger/

    This is what white America wants our children to have drummed into them. Like I said, they don’t have to do the dirty work, we do it FOR them.

    Thank you for this thought provoking post. Some of us really need to ask ourselves, “what is wrong with us when even our music is no longer the soulful, soul stirring music of Barry White, Teddy Pendergrass, Whitney Houston, Rick James, Luther Vandross, Toni Braxton, Karen White, Patti Labelle, et. al. They produced music and not this mess that passes for music today!

  59. You mention a lot of good history! I always thought, too, that old school R&B kept it clean, until I heard Prince. 0_o Maybe he’s an exception, but he hit you between the eyes with some of his lyrics! Lol

  60. I’m kind of partial to the old R&B. I think it’s partly the lyrics, where they were sexy but more figuratively so. Now instead of “loving somebody all over” it’s more “licking somebody all over” and, well, I didn’t need that literal explanation. Heh heh heh. I also think it’s the collaborations which irk me as well. A good singer should not just be brought out for the hook. And then there’s the instrumentation, where in the past there was more use of acoustic or electronic instruments that were played rather than programmed. I like a good beat, but a groove? That requires more human input. I’ve actually learned to love country (not raised on it) because of the lyrics, the stories, the male bass voices (I tire of the falsetto sometimes), the instrumentation and the instrumental solos. And of course, there’s blues, jazz, and classical. For future generations I think we have to play them the good old R&B and the good new R&B (even if it’s not popular). Once that sound is more familiar, it’ll be infectious. Then there’s the marketing, which I think the new R&B people are not getting help with. Then there’s the good old fashioned training as a musician. Priceless. Great post.

  61. Right!?! I’m afraid I’ll look up and my iPod will be 20 years old with dusty music I still love in it. My R&B ladies have been quiet this year. Where IS Jazmine at?!

  62. It seems like every r&b artist that I love does not get the proper recognition. For example, Monica, Elle Varner, Melanie Fiona, Jazmine Sullivan..just to name a few of the underrated. I miss the artistry that this genre once upheld. Albums were not released by artists every year with just six songs all about sex with annoying catchy hooks. Albums were released after fans had an anxious wait, and hardly ever disappointed on content! This way seems to be a thing of the past, but me and my iPod will continue to fight for it lol.

  63. Thank you for stopping by and taking a look around! Another commenter pointed out that it could just be growing pains, and I think I agree with that. Maybe it’ll even itself out.

    What I’m really hoping happens is that other like-minded R&B lovers who can actually sing will put music out that we love, because they love it.

    A fellow grammarian! WELCOME TO THE MADNESS 🙂

  64. Great stuff all around on your blog here. Found you based on your birth article. I totally agree with what you are saying here. I was born in Detroit and love authentic R&B music. There certainly seems to be a shortage of the genre currently, at least if you are assessing things based on what is on the radio or receives recognition or support from the music industry.

    Also, anyone who insists on punctuating her text messages as I do is a-ok in my book. 😉

  65. It’s unanimous then: Dara needs to get Electric Lady. lol.

    And I can’t tell you how much I hate rap features on R&B songs, especially when the 16 bars are neither hot NOR relevant to the actual song. Who gets on a track and just starts rapping about their Lambo?! I love Jay-Z, but his verse on “Suit and Tie” was garbage lyricism. Ugh.

  66. PREACH! But I do wonder, for example, with Luther Vandross and the like, whether their success was due to large support from the black community or a broader audience. I’d hate to attribute the long-term success of the genre on solely white support. What do you think?

  67. I keep hearing about Electric Lady and I just might have to go get it. I thought The Archandroid was nice, but not gripping. I may have to cop some Janelle for my bday. 🙂

  68. I would have to say most of my R&B playlist would be about 10 years old. The only artists to survive the past 10 years are those who were pretty much accepted by the mainstream 10 years ago (Usher… I’m looking at you.)

    One of the things I think has helped some R&B artists, but maybe hurt the industry is the cross-over with rap artists. Every single had to have a remix with at least three rappers on it. At that point, people forget the root was an R&B song and not just the hook for the rappers…

    Final point- Janelle Monae. Fantastic and talented. I will never forget the first time I heard her- on the ESPN Espy Awards. Not the radio. Not MTV. Not BET (I don’t watch much BET honestly.) But, ESPN.

  69. Well, you’ve got a point. Nicely made too.

    Janelle Monáe has just made a great album ‘The Electric Lady’. It strays over a really wide range of styles though, so maybe not pure R’n’B. I haven’t enjoyed anything like this as much since Kelis’ ‘Tasty’ or Mary J Blige’s ‘No More Drama’.

    Thicke and his ilk need to wash their mouth out. “I know you want it’ sounds like caveman speak.

  70. Guys I have to jump in on this. I thought this was a great post, I also miss R&B, but I have a lot of old recordings so it is always around.
    You have to think about who is listening to the music. Rap is selling because young white kids are listening to it. They have no interest in real R&B so R&B is no longer marketable. The blues were a perfect example of what can happen to a kind of music once companies can find a way to market it to young white people.

  71. I am good for Rihanna-bait, it appears! 🙂 Thank YOU for stopping by and chatting with me.

    And I am EVER lethal with my commas. My husband is trying to get me to relax on punctuating my text messages. To this, I say: No, thank you! 🙂

  72. I was baiting you! Saw your previous remark on her 😀
    I saw her years ago on TV here in Aus, she was brilliant, untainted by the industry and got slammed for being so called overwieght! The next I saw of her, was the pop styled image she became…. was very dissapointing and she had lost her edge that caught my eye originally. Ohh I could talk music all day and night!

    thanks for a great blog, very interesting discussions and always well written with comma use of exceptional expression! haha

  73. Don’t even get me started on Rihanna. She is firmly in the pop arena. I think that when she first came out, they didn’t know how to market her and she was Caribbean with awful songs that did not catch on. I like some of her work now, but I find her vocally weak and heavy on the gimmicks.

  74. Oh I so enjoyed reading that description! Rap and hip hop evolved from using the beat loops to including a vocal line, then to the entire chorus…. it was inevitable! yes I think we can blame enimem for that ‘pop’ blend hahaha! Others followed suit as soon as the commercial prospects became too obvious for the record companies. yes, sadly the record companies are the ones behind most of the distruction to music, from forcing artists to hold back great songs for the next album to convincing a young soul RnB her music will sell more if she dresses like a tart on her video clip (insert any rhianna vid clip here lol)… it’s sad to say, but money drives the market 😦

  75. I like that perspective. All things, all music, must grow.

    Perhaps the cross-pollination of rap with hip-hop is just in its adolescent phase, Kind of gangly, a little awkward, arms too long for its torso. In that case, I do wish it’d hurry up and mature into adulthood. I cannot take much more of rap verses sung on bedroom music tracks. lol.

  76. See! This is the problem…I LOVE Glenn Lewis from way back and had no idea he came out with a new album! Ugh. I could do without the radio airplay if it wasn’t so crucial in getting music execs to put money toward marketing.

    Thanks for reading, cherie! 🙂

  77. My own perspective is that all genre’s cross pollinate and have since the dawn of time. I no longer hear a straight genre, one that is easily classified. Most noticably they have been blending genres for the past 50 years. Rock born from blues, disco born from reggae, I would even endevour to say jazz grew out from orchestral and if you really want to go back that far, maybe jazz and rock were actually born from the days of banging sticks and stones? Music progresses, artists evolve, a genre is only a category that tries to fit to a listeners taste and notice equivalant musicians. Now with the rise of DJ produced music, it has been influencing even more music. Pop was only a label for popular music, even heavy metal tracks made it into the top 40, does that then make it pop? Some artists will stay, ummmm, ‘true’ to a sound, but sounds evolve and for that I am glad, where would we be without artists learning and trying new styles to express their talent and music.

  78. Bonsoir D..I really like this article and I’m a little late on your blog..R&B is certainly not dead. I too was taken a back with the nominations. However, it goes to show, our genre of music is diverse. What struck me, for the nominees, the pop artists were selected. The artists not played on radio such as the talented and awesome, creative…you get my point Janelle Monae was included…although she was not mentioned and gets no radio airplay, she is doing splendid. Sold out shows so far for electric lady tour. God is awesome because He has brought her this far without being heard on the radio. What she stands fir nd how she carries herself, and her music is what makes her special, and makes me a fan for life. Btw, Glenn Lewis new album is great, if you don’t own it yet..:-)

  79. I don’t really know anything about R&B, though I do enjoy it. I liked this article a lot though, you have a great writing style. It’s very clean and continually interesting. It flows well.

  80. Lol! Thanks and high five back at you. You and the other sharp folks commenting nailed it. Neo-soul (NS) is the new R&B.

    I often hear NS artists claim they don’t ascribe to a specific genre, that they just make “music.” I call bull. I think they say that so they don’t get crammed into a non-selling genre lol. We just have to support them and hope our dollars go toward more music we love.

  81. I bought Raheem’s latest also..Have been digging him since his first crooning tune..R & B isn’t dead; its just been renamed @ Neo Soul..Which btw is my fave genre of music..As well as old motown; which is for sure r & b..Some would say Black artists who crossed over sold OUT..Some would say White artists are doing what they’ve always done..TAKE, without giving credit, from R & B Black artists..Elvis Presley did that till they day he died..Literally taking food/money from Black artists mouths…In any other arena that would be called what it is; theft. And though I like Robin Thicke’s earlier music ; there is no doubt he took from Marvin Gaye..Amazing what some folks will do for a quick buck; well a crap load of bucks. The list of great Black neo-soul/r & b artists is too long to list here..But they do exist & IF we continue to buy/play them they’ll hit the charts again. Same thing I say about Black business is if we don’t support them ; they die off. (ask Tyler Perry how GREAT a job we did of supporting him and helping him rise to fame ) While we were raising our sons we made sure to play tons of old school, motown and r & b.. Just like my parents did; so we’d know what real lyrics/music sounded like. I wish more parents had & mayhaps we’d not hear this lame excuse for r & b thats being produced now. They can’t even sing acapella these days! Can’t fake soul! Where is the skill set of the likes of Boys to Men??? I could go on and on about this..Obviously lol, lol! Kudos to you for taking notice. Double kudos for getting F.P.ed and spreading the message to millions. Virtual high 5^

  82. I do like Underwood and Reba. I grew up in the sixties and Norwegian Wood rocks. Jefferson Airplane, Hawaii 5 o theme and Telstar. The Elephant Walk and Popcorn. So many. Like the music from Fiddler and Man of La Macha.

  83. I do like Underwood and Reba. I grew up in the sixties and Norwegian Wood rocks. Jefferson Airplane, Hawaii 5 o theme and Telstar. The Elephant Walk and Popcorn. So many. Like the music from Fiddler and Man of La Macha.

  84. I enjoyed the blog even though I am more into jazz. Old jazz, Brubeck and Peter Gunn theme music. I do not find rapping that enjoyable nor do I like opera and the same feeling towards country. Some of the old works are still fantastic. Bald Mountain, New World Symphony to John Williams, and the theme from the Mag. Seven. I go everywhere with what I like. R and B has got some nice beats, I do like Harlem Nocturne. I guess I am eclectic.

  85. Good point regarding the power of the internet! My last blog written was about an artist I listed, Sid Sriram, and how artists like him can benefit from the internet’s global audience.

  86. I agree, you have to know where the crates are and who are in the crates. It’s no time to be a lazy music fan, that’s for sure. Interesting that R&B sees its decline in industry popularity during a time when the Internet makes it possible to organically promote work. Still, it would be nice to hear more Foreign Exchange on my radio!

    Thanks for reading!

  87. I agree with the idea that R&B takes much more of a crate-digging effort than before. However, the artists are definitely out there. They are just simply overshadowed by artists of other genres, particularly Hip-Hop. Those heavily in my rotation include Miguel, Frank Ocean, Novel, Sid Sriram, BJ the Chicago Kid, and the work of James Fauntleroy in Cocaine 80’s. Interestingly these artists do a combination of their own writing/producing. The concept of quality over quality has come into play and I truly feel like the generic R&B-sounding artists just get weeded out.

  88. Yeah! I saw K-Ci and JoJo on the Billboard, along with Jaheim, like WHY aren’t black R&B artists getting the promo that rap does?

    I’m certain that much of the Neo-Soul genre is really R&B, but gets tagged with the label and crowded out of airplay. Smh.

  89. “…As yesterday’s R&B becomes more of an underground genre, fans will just have to keep their ears closer to the ground for music that brings back that old feeling…” – dtafakari

    Ah. Getting old. Things ain’t what they used to be. As a fifty-something R’n’B lover who recently had to explain to several deeply shocked and suspicious twenty-something R&B enthusiasts (of diverse cultural and racial backgrounds) that R&B used to be shorthand for Rhythm & Blues…I love what you are saying!

  90. Couldn’t have said it any better, r&b is on it’s last legs, no one writes songs anymore, they are just singing over rap tracks. Traditional r&b songs either have to have a rapper on it or made into some edm mashup. The ones who don’t fit are tossed aside into the Neo soul genre left to rely on Word of mouth promotion or nostalgic target shoppers, kci and jojo got an album, who knew?

  91. I’d like to think I can tell the difference between neo-soul and R&B music, even today. I think my love for the former is so true to the roots that I can spot a fake (if you will) like I can call out a someone who is lying to me.

    Black radio is all about money and politics, and nothing else. They force feed. The only time they will play music of someone who is not currently popular is if someone who is not currently popular dies.

    Like you said (in so many words): R&B has been globalized. If music can’t be globalized and monetized, then it won’t be played for the masses. The Janelle Monaes of the world have to work hard to stand out and be seen/heard.

  92. “souloists”love that!

    To be honest, “neo-soul” is now my favorite genre. Those are the songs I bump from Track 1 to Track 12. But sometimes, even neo-soul loses its blurry distinction from R&B. I don’t know the diff sometimes. I think what I really miss is the willingness of black radio to play “neo-soul” artists, because it’s still considered a newer alt genre. They will play certain R&B (Kelly Rowland, Tamar, Beyonce, but not Janelle Monae). sigh.

  93. Don’t even get me started on Rihanna; we were almost rid of her until “Umbrella” and Ursula Stephens.. Business-wise, it’s a genius move. Cross-genre artists make more money overall. Usher is pop-R&B, ever since “OMG.” It’s a head-scratcher for me, since R&B has always managed to stand its own alongside the other genres and maintain popularity within the black community.

    That comment about Winehouse and Adele was spot-on. Those artists are considered exceptional because they’re white and…(let me not go off on this tangent. lol)

  94. “our artist have transitioned to Neo Soul no longer labeled RnB”

    That’s a really good point. It makes me wonder if R&B, as we previously knew it, even exists anymore?

  95. Girl, YES. Words. Out of my mouth.

    I guess I’d just like to think that the R&B/Neo-Soul love of our lives (Erykah, Maxwell, Lauryn Hill’s blessed soul, D’Angelo, Raheem DeVaughn, Rahsaan Patterson, Meshell Ndegeocello, Donell Jones, Musiq, Saadiq, Jill Scott, Dwele, Anthony Hamilton, etc.) are safely enamored in a place in many music fan’s hearts, so much that the music will eventually inspire a new generation of R&B souloists.

    We may have lost the battle, but we have not lost the war.

  96. I think a lot of the Black artists that would have been making R&B are trying to cross over. Rhianna is the new model for that. I think that White folks are less likely to buy straight up R&B with a Black singer behind and are more likely to buy R&B by the late Amy Whinehouse or Robin Thicke or Adele.

    Even my favorite R&B singer has added pop-R&B to her standard fair with a song like Girl On Fire. A song like that, despite the moaning of many people, got Alicia a lot of spins on “White” radio.

    Also, there’s less room in the corporate radio landscape of Black R&B. Most of the stations that used to play R&B or claim to still play it are either playing a very, very limited oldie R&B playlist or are a mostly rap station that plays a little R&B.

    You have to look hard for Black R&B these days.

  97. I use to say the same thing about HIP HOP…I am really trying to understand at what point did everything go base boomin-booty shaking-twerk til you can’t twerk no more south. Don’t get me wrong I can shake it with the best of them (LOL), but I miss GREAT Hip Hop. But that’s a thing of the past. But I now realize RnB is not for “us”, our artist have transitioned to Neo Soul no longer labeled RnB.

  98. I don’t even want the same music back, just the same dedication to it. I liked my R&B sans rap. 😦 crappy bars on a mediocre track do not a great song make.

  99. These things are cyclical I tell myself but the landscape that fostered r&b no longer exists. Like rock music, we aren’t going to Sankofa our way back to it.

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