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Are The Lights On? When Did Everybody Get So Dark?


When I say "dark," I'm not referring to the not-so-friendly debate at the center of "Good And Bad Hair." What I'm referring to is popular music's infatuation with emo-goth-vampirism so much that it has seeped into almost everything labeled as avant garde these days. I'm not suggesting that everything revert back to a day-glo, Cross Colours-type of manic urgency. I'm just a more-than-a-little-bit ready for pounding, repetitive, dark synth-Pop sound to take a back seat. 
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Now, don't get me wrong. I was listening to, writing about, and loving the reincarnation of '80s synths...a year ago. Now, I'm just tired of it all. To echo a recent DJ Brainchild tweet "they really need to stop trying to make Rihanna into some dark, mysterious pop singer. She ain't touchin' Aaliyah." Well said. Mainly because when Aaliyah wanted to be dark and mysterious, she (a) was mostly clothed and (b) seemed to legitimately be taking a foray into a sound that she was listening to. And before the stans take offense with my taking up Rihanna as the poster child for post-Dead Or Alive emo-ness, I can rattle off many artists who I love, but whose music I must now distance myself from. Want to know who they are? Go throw a rock and see how many hipsters clutching Casios to their chest you find.

A large reason for this dark path may have to do with a belief amongst angst-ridden celebrities that saying what you're listening to is as important as what you sound like. For example, I kind of sort of like Radiohead, and, given my mood, Bjork is the lick. But I know damn well that there are not that many Negroes listening to that much Thom Yorke as they claim. My theory: Kanye's Europop listening self told one person, and that person put it on a blog, and then legions of real and faux tight-jeans-wearing hipsters are now ALL listening to Alphaville's "Forever Young". Jay-Z I'm looking at you.

I'm sorry for this rant if you feel that I'm sounding old and ornery and not in touch with what the kids like. This is less a plea for a return to the "good old days" and more of a plea for experimentation. Preferably, experimentation that has not been done before, obviously. I'm all for new sounds. Hell, I'm even down for sounds that sound reminiscent of the familiar. But when everyone gets on the same bandwagon, it just starts to feel as though no one cares about the music. It does, however, start to feel as though the main thing anyone cares about it are notoriety and controversy. Hopefully, one day soon there will be a return to more Soul and less synth. And when that glorious day arrives, I will be at the ready, waiting with baited breath, frothing with excitement to listen to legitimate sounds once again.


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10 Responses

  1. This 'gothic' motif Rhianna has opted for, just isn't doing it, for me. And, what is that "Russian Roulette" garbage all about????

  2. I can't believe in a year where Maxwell came back and had one of longest-running #1 R&B singles, in a year when Whitney finally came out of hiding, in a year when we saw just as many releases from seasoned vets as newcomers that people are actually complaining about Rihanna. So one or two people do it and now it's a trend? There's enough room for everyone. That girl ain't doing anything revolutionary nor is she biting anyone. She's just in her lane.
    And in no way am I a stan, but doesn't someone who has been through as much as she has have a right to be emo? Sure it's a bit gimmicky and an easy marketing ploy, but come on -- let the girl have a Velvet Rope moment. Geez.

  3. Interesting post.
    And that is why my radio stays off. The last real decade of good music playing on mainstream radio was the 90s.
    BUT.. I must say, the young lady took quite a risk with her first single, don't you think? It shocked the hell out of me. I expected some Euro dance tune featuring Drake but she released this which surprised her fans and has a subject matter that can be interpreted as many things. While I am not a fan of her vocals or styling, the young Barbadian is pushing some kind of envelope. What do you think?

  4. Nice post.
    I find the dark "emo-goth-vampirism" sound/style to be pretty enjoyable when done by R&B/hiphop artists when done properly and with an authenticity. I feel that Rihanna's foray into this "disturbia" esque sound and image lacks legitimacy. It's just her "people" changing her style, her look, trying to be something of a chameleon so that she can maintain some interest in her music, even at the chance that she'll be called a "biter".
    Of course she's not touching Aaliyah. Not to compare the two as artists, but Aaliyah did the whole "emo-goth" thing from the very beginning of her career. Her whole style/music even up until her death was very rooted in the "dark" and mysterious. So, as ill mami said....it just seemed that Aaliyah's fascination/interest in "emo" R&B was more a reflection of her and her tastes as opposed to some very marketed, very formulaic image imposed unto her. Which is exactly what it seems is happening with Rihanna. Therefore, I just don't feel the soul at the heart of it....and like ill mami said.....MORE SOUL!!!! even if it is on some emo-goth synth tip. 🙂

  5. Ok question...when was RiRi EVER about "Soul

  6. Good question baybruh. The answer is NEVER! Haha.
    Peace.

  7. I COMPLETELY agree with everything you wrote!!! And I was just thinking about it today, before I read this entry. I honestly love all different types of music…I started diggin Red Hot Chili Peppers when I heard the Zephyr song: Lykke Lee, The Birds and the Bee, and Ceu’, to name a few more. But I don’t like the fact that so many R&B artists feel the need to be contemporary these days! Where’s the originality, and the passion for loving what you do so much, that you are committed to making good music?! The newest Alicia Keyes song has grown on me, but I admit that I wasn’t really feeling it when I first heard it here. She lost me with the, I AM, album. I don’t know what to think anymore; Maybe these people are growing as artists, and little ol’ me is stuck in my ways. But I think it’s very sad when I have to look abroad (London, Brazil, and the like,) for good quality music, because America puts garbage in the limelight! I’m not the bandwagon type of girl, so they can keep rolling without me…
    Thank GOD for soul bounce and CDBABY.com.. Without you guys, some of the best jewels would remain undiscovered!

  8. Here we go again, putting black people in a box. If Rihanna wants to be emo/goth/ punk/whatever, let her go ahead and knock herself out. Nothing wrong with experimentation. White artists do it all the time; I don't see white blogs criticizing them for that. Faux tight jeans wearing hipsters? no comment. You can do better soul bounce. I'm out.

  9. I Agree. But you should know there are just about as many that listen to the old Radiohead, the new one changes their style with every album now...
    This coming from a black man that play "Kharma Police" on acoustic guitar, but ain't wearing no damn skinny jeans...n*&^a please...lol



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