If you were born in or before the 90s you probably listened to the likes of Westlife, Aaaliyah, Ashanti, Destiny’s Child and Brandy just to name a few. These musicians gave us music that stirred feelings in our hearts and gave us all kinds of feels. The R&B scene in these times are considered to have reached its peak in terms of standard and quality of music. It is not rare to log on to social media, Twitter for instance, and find someone wishing they could get the 1990s, or before, R&B, the crying-in-the-middle-of-the-road in the rain kind of music. If we are being honest with ourselves, that music was all kinds of good.
What really happened to the R&B music industry? Where did all these artists go? This is a question that is quite difficult to answer as some of the musicians that gave us this music are still very much actively involved in the music, churning hit after hit, but why is it not the same as the earlier days R&B?
Early R&B artist Erykah Badu questioned the kind of music artists from the genre were releasing in 2010 calling that style of music pop techno with the boom bip and the hump for the payday. Critics of the genre say most artists in the industry are losing the initial style of the music in the process of reinventing themselves. In the process of everyone trying to stand out with a different sound, they are ending up with absolutely different styles of music.
Other than the sound and beat, today’s R&B has become unrelatable for lack of a better word. Artists are no longer singing about what they’d do for love, or apologies or just serenading their lovers. Instead, there is a lot more music about sex, one-night stands, parties and expensive drinks on the radio today.
While there is nothing wrong with singing about sex, the difference is in how it is being done today. One cannot compare Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On to some of the songs about sex on the radio today without being grossed out. The message no longer has an actual, heartfelt message, it’s more superficial and meaningless. This makes it hard to connect to. John Blake in an article for CNN commented that there is no longer tenderness or seduction in R&B music, which is sort of true.
In addition, as alluded to by Ms. Erykah Badu, artists are chasing the dollar with their music by choosing to produce club banging hits as opposed to the deep soulful music that was a characteristic of earlier days R&B. This literally leaves the music to all kinds of party themed lyrics while that doesn’t have to be the case. Whitney Houston is an example of an artist whose music topped charts with meaningful lyrics proving that it can actually be done.
The need to progress and grow in whatever genre of music cannot be understated. However, in all the change, if the message remained constant, maybe, just maybe we’d still have quality songs about love or any other emotion. It is also important to know that there some artists that have remained in the initial school of R&B showing that there is still hope.