I, like many others, have had the privilege and blessing of growing up listening to some of the best music ever made, and that is late 80s to early-2000s R&B music. Having been raised in a household that was very R&B dominant, the genre is close to my heart, but has taken a mighty tumble in recent years. The questions are always “what happened? Where did it go wrong? Where’s the soul?” And those are all valid questions that a lot of people can’t fathom to answer. You can attribute it to some acts just losing their voices, the male counterparts looking to go more ‘pop’ to sell or dramatically sexualizing their lyrical content, and the real talented voices just flutter in the distance (or like to be mysteriously hidden, a la Frank Ocean & The Weeknd).
A big worry, in terms of R&B/Soul, has been on the female side of the genre, because they dominated it like no other, and yet they don’t have as big of a presence right now, like before. Again, the varying changes of style within the genre and lack of depth in the talent pool attributes to that, but that shouldn’t be an excuse. Let’s just call it like it is, and say that a lot of people aren’t checking for R&B lately because it’s not great. You can go as far as to saying that it’s lacklustre. Some would even say trash, and it’s to no surprise that I see more and more people talk about how much they listen to more 90s content than current. The same holds true from 90s Hip Hop fanatics, but we’re not focused on them right now. I have written posts about a few women that can hold it down for R&B now, but the question is if they’re able to have substantial longevity. Who’s going to have their Whitney moment? Their Mariah? Who’s going to make a Waterfalls, Creep, Weak, Steelo song in this day in age that doesn’t have R&B groups on both sides? It’s something that we’ve had to endure, but if you look on the other side of the pond (Londontown, what’s up?) you can hear evidence from whether it’s Adele, the Late Amy Winehouse, or Emeli Sandé (just naming examples off top), they’ve seemed to keep true to that soulful effort that has worked for them. So why not here in North America?
Thug&B seems to be the new norm in the face of Male R&B. Either that or it’s this eerie cosmos of drug culture or the darkest emotions brought into full light. A lot has changed, and I think the problem is that when a certain generation has been accustomed to so much variety within the genre, to be limited to a handful of ‘good’ acts, it’s frustrating. So, I don’t blame those who live through the 90s, but that should be a wake up call to newer or current acts. We need more of the good things to appreciate.
Now, usually, I’d be writing a whole host of reviews for various projects, but when the spark isn’t there, it’s difficult to put words to pages that don’t seem to want to come out. This is also known as writer’s block. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t suggest some R&B projects that I’ve felt the need to share out. 2015 has been a great year for music, and we’re just entering the 4th quarter. It’s very exciting, but through listening to other people’s suggestions (including my mother), I’ll drop links (Apple Music, for the record, is very good, so I’d get that). Enjoy, and here’s to hopefully the revival of R&B for the latter half of this decade and further more.
Alessia Cara – Four Walls EP
Lianne La Havas – Blood
The Internet – Ego Death
The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness
Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon
Bilal – In Another Life
Teyana Taylor – VII – The Cassette Tape 1994
That’s My Word & It STiXX