Is R&B Indefensible At This Point?

microphone.jpgOnly a week ago we somewhat agreed with Bobby Valentino that R&B is dead. The points previously made still stand: many R&B artists have ventured away from the genre in hopes of gaining revenue in more lucrative genres. More and more, the bandwagon speeding away from R&B, flipping it the bird on their way toward other, maybe equally as boring and lifeless (here's looking at you, most rock derivatives) sonic horizons. Hilariously, Ben Westhoff at the Phoenix New Times declares "R&B Is 'Rap & Bulls--t'" and who can really blame him?

He makes many of the same points as we've made here
about the transformation of R&B as Hip Hop took over and the
effects of Neo-Soul as a genre, bemoaning the lack of the R&B icons
and sounds of yore. His (and others') frustration and indignation begs
the question of whether or not we should even be attempting to resuscitate R&B or if we should just allow the buzzards of
mainstream banality polish off its carcass. Has R&B in its purest
form become so boring that it should be left to exist on compilation
albums and in the memories of those who relish its glory days?

I have a vested interest in the perpetuation of R&B, partially
because I don't believe it's exhausted any more than many other genres
of music. But even though it's the bedrock on which many careers
continue to be built, and that there are still many artists still
exploring the genre further, should this make a difference? Should we
continue to fight the (arguably?) good fight for R&B?

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17 Responses

  1. I just finished writing a review of the new Platinum Pied Pipers' new disc "Abundance." That album blows Bobby's argument about R&B being dead out the water.

  2. I agree that mainstream R&B is soul-less, repetitive and devoid of much talent but i think that to right off the genre on that basis is wrong. The PNT article asks where is our modern day Marvin Gaye or Sam Cooke? Well it depends who you ask ... a listener of commercial radio may answer with Usher or Ne-Yo (that is if, god forbid, they know who Marvin Gaye is), ask a reader of this site and they may say .... Well they couldn't really answer because there are no modern equivalents.
    Of course there are stand-out talents (Bilal, Erro, Jill, Erykah etc) but none of them will blow up like Marvin bacause music is seen as a throwaway commodity nowadays. The internet allows all of us access to whatever songs or albums we want for free, so we can 'over-indulge' ourselves. Anyone can download 10 albums a day if they wish, but that means they don't listen and don't appreciate what they hear. Back when people paid out hard earned cash for albums we were all more picky about what we bought, and a lot harsher if it didn't live up to expectations - that is what created icons, lesser artists were 'weeded out' leaving a few deserving of our respect who we could trust to produce the goods album upon album... now there is no need to weed out the garbage because it was free in the first place so who cares? Someone releases an album you don't like? .... Simple, just delete it from your hard drive and wait for the next album. This in turn means that record labels do not really have to worry about quality of a whole album, get a catchy single out there and people will pay their money for what really is a single and some filler or they will download it free, either way the record company hasn't invested that much so they are not too fussed about the return.
    There was mention in the Bobby Valentino article here that we as consumers must demand change, i agree with this sentiment entirely, however i feel that those who care about the future of R&B are in a minority. All we can do to ensure it's survival, is support the artists who are still producing great music, and spread the word on sites such as this.
    Mainstream R&B may well be dead, but the underground will stay alive as long as we keep talking about it!

  3. I could have gone on for ever but i tried to keep it concise and to the point ... on revision i failed but you get my drift!

  4. The shit passing for R&B in the mainstream these days sucks harder than a hooker when the rent is due.

  5. R&B ain't dead. Urban radio, on the other hand, is dead.

  6. Why do many artists use R & B as the 'launching pad' for their careers...then make the switch to pop? Is it because R & B has less barriers to entry and the fan base is guaranteed?
    John Legend comes to mind.

  7. Soul UK is right The underground will live on. Radio watched as R&B died making sure no one dialed 911. What time is the funeral? Will R Kelly, Mr. Bigs and the plethora of Aaliyah wannabes be there?
    What I want to know is will we ever find our Soul. Its been missing in mainstream. I'm not sure but is Harriet Tubman delivering them to pop?

  8. RnB is and will always be. The genre will never die out. There are too many rnb artists old and new out there to let that ever happen.
    Rap and hip hop thrives on rnb music.

  9. Eff the over-hyped, so-called "mainstream". Both Artists and listeners need to free themselves from those tired little boxes that define one piece of black art worthy because it has corporate backing, and another because someone made it out of someone's drive and imagination.
    Soul music is alive and thriving via good ol' independent entrepreneurship, JUST like it did in its '50's/'60's/'70's heyday (stax, motown, etc.) Turn off the the tee vee and the radio and crawl out of the box, good people! The glass really IS half-full!

  10. R&B is watered down pop music. Everything I hear on the radio, or in mainstream sounds the same. When you only have 5 main entertainers pushing out 90% of what people consider popular, you get the situation we are in. I think it's safe to say that music since 1997 has been pretty much a formula: attractive people with mediocre skills. Instead of people being influence to do step up the game, the opposite has happened and now we are in a situation thinking that R&B is gone. I think music as a genre has lost its passion. People aren't writing music or singing from their soul. They are doing it for that paper. Money has no soul. Money is no personality, feeling or integrity, and it shows itself in the art. It's a shame because we live in a time when we can download and listen to streams of quality sound, but end up listening to crap. It's almost as if we need Michael Jackson to come out with a Thriller again....

  11. I must mention that around 2000, I thought I saw an evolution. When artists like Res and Lina stepped on the scene, I thought that they would bring it. However, someone got lazy and we've not heard much from them since.
    One thing that I see clearly... female artists in R&B are moreso stepping up to the plate creatively than the males. We DO need inspiration... where do we find it?

  12. I would argue that r&b isn't dead, it doesn't need "saving" it still exists, its just getting no airway/media. Maybe I'd propose that it has become a niche genre,...The SB community knows by virtue of being here, that Anthony Hamilton, Rahsaan Patterson, Ledisi, Mint Condition, so on and so forth are putting out great r&b/soul music on the regular. Just me here, but I don't know that it matters if they get the Marvin Gaye legendary status or MJ radio play. If they can sustain careers, and the community looking for the music can find it, I think we are ok. Sure I'd prefer that the radio stations not fill the youngn's ears with some of the bull that is out there now, but that is a whole nother topic...To wrap it up, I think the music is there, we just have to keep supporting it and not worry about it being as "big" as the past soulsters or the curent poptarts.

  13. i soooooo agree! r&b is so sad now the old school r&b is where its at like it fell off during the late 90s idk what happened! its so sad there is noone keeping r&b on track!

  14. i soooooo agree! r&b is so sad now the old school r&b is where its at like it fell off during the late 90s idk what happened! its so sad there is noone keeping r&b on track!

  15. just my two cents but r&b is not dead. it's just suffering right now from the cliche songs, albums, looks, etc. And a note to bobby valentino: "let me beat, beat, beat, beat, beat" wouldn't bring it back if it were dead. the fact that this brotha said that r&b is dead means its not dead. no disrespect to dude at all but my man just got his feet wet for one. first album was forward to now and we have "beat, beat, beat, beat, beat". but really when it boils down to it, there is no love in the music any more. hit it and quit it. that's what the songs that get radio play are about (sadly they represent r&b to the 'mainstream') and that's how they feel. beat, beat, beat, beat, beat. the game, as it is, is being pimped from the next trendy sound (autotune, the timbaland/danjahandz-produced sound, brian michael cox, written by the clutch, and neosoul [oops]). there is not enough originality. the folks that stand out in the game are indubitably talented and/or are usually consistently original (mint condition, erykah badu, and lots others who i can't think of right now but you get my point, right?). anyhow, bobby v, stand corrected. r&b is in a recession(as if this word hasn't been used enough in the past 12 months)!

  16. R&B music is what that artist makes of it, neyo & bobby valentino say its dead because they can write or create a great r&b songs , they recycle & steal, you could say its been commersialized and waterdown so much that its lost whats made it great to the point when you hear a new track it no longer inspires you, artist have to go back to basics, r&b at its raw and unique form. real soul music & if that dosen't inspire you than jazz, blue and all the roots that made the music .
    but R&B is not dead

  17. ive been buying black music for the last twenty 25 yrs and its at its worst now RnB and HIPHOP is just POP music or is it im gettin old?