Thursday, December 16, 2010
What's wrong with Today's R&B?
The Honest Man is in a sad state of mind readers. And sad because of the current state of rhythm & blues music, better known as R&B amongst the bruhs. But I have christened it rhythm and bullshit lately because of all the bad music I've heard on the radio. And I don't know if it's me just becoming more of an old fogie and clinging too hard to the past. Or maybe it's me not embracing how r&b has evolved over the past decade or so. Or maybe it's just I'm right, the masses are wrong, and they don't recognize good from bad music. I think it's a combination of all 3....
I have 400 plus CDs of music. You'll be shocked to know my collection comprised 40% of R&B, 40% of Hip Hop, and 20% of Alternative. Hell I was shocked myself when I reviewed my cases. And I was going through my soul collection, I was even more shocked at how diverse it was. Sam Cooke. Marvin Gaye. Supremes. Parliament. The Deele. The Jacksons. New Edition. D'Angelo. Mary J. Blige. Ne-Yo. If you're not following the pattern, that's me doing a transition from the oldies to current music or decade to next decade. Starting with the 50s and acts like Ray Charles and the Coasters, you'll find good music in every decade up until the current one we just entered. And no matter how silly or corny the songs may appear now, I can find the genius in a record like "I got a woman" or "Ain't no Mountain High enough." Then I stop and wonder "Where did it all go wrong for R&B"
I was watching VH1 Soul the other and they had an hour where they showed nothing but old school R&B songs, ranging from the 70s through the 90s. I literally was having nostalgia moments remembering when I used to make "Quiet Storm" tapes (yes playas tapes!) off the local radio's after hour mixes and try to entice some honey to be mine. Or when I used to get nervous as I was slow dancing to a dope R Kelly song with a girl and hoping not to mess up. But one thing I noticed about the songs were how subtle they were in their approaches to member of the opposite sex. I'm not naive enough to think that bluntness in songs didn't exist. Adina Howard, Jodeci, Millie Jackson, etc definitely had "Gimme some now" records but still it was recorded in a way where you are like "yo this is my shit!"
I go back to subtle because it seems R&B has lost it way. I hear songs now on the radio and the originality is just lacking. There are more folks trying to emulate the Adina Howard approach instead of the Anita Baker approach and it just comes off wrong. No more "I wanna caress your body and can't wait until we are one" liners, it's now "Immma take yo pants off, girl ohh yooo booty's soft, I'm about to knock that coochie off" and I go wow, is there even a point to the song. No mystery whatsoever. It's like the girl that always showing her goodies off. Yea her body is dope but how many guys haven't tasted her goodies?? Give me the girl that we know has a dope body but is classy enough to not show the entire meal and rather let you guess what's underneath.
I was talking with my boy about this recently and I was trying to explain to him that it's not that I don't like R&B because there acts out there today that I support (Janelle Monae, Ne-Yo come to mind) but it just seems there are more bad acts out there today than good versus the opposite effect no more than 10 years ago. And that's disheartening. My wife gives me shit for not giving today's R&B a try but I say why bother. I already know what the record is going to be and sound like. Disposable, trendy, and not a timeless classic. I mean let ask you readers do you think someone like Beyonce's records are timeless or good for the current time period? And how do you stack her records against someone like a Aretha Franklin? Sade? Hell I'll use someone closer in age..Mary J Blige? Do you think you will want to hear her bust out "Single Ladies" in 25 years?? And that's what I'm getting at, it's frustrating.
So what do you do? I continue to support the acts that I like and even the new ones that either I hear by chance or someone sends me a joint to listen to. But I am not an active R&B supporter anymore. Not with what's out there in today's market. You can have whatever they call that R&B. As you pop champagnes and dance to "LOL", I'll be poppin' in Debarge's greatest hits going "Damn that El cranked out some jams." And if you need further proof, ask yourself if you think your favorite rapper is going to sample a current R&B song. Makes you go damn don't it!
I don't hate today's R&B readers, I just pity the fool! Call me old, call me bitter, or call me what the young people say a "hater" but after you finish calling me names, take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself, will I be listening to this in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? And if you are struggling with that question, that should already answer my question of is this good or bad r&b...MESSAGE!