R&B Is DEAD – And You Can’t Blame “The Corporations” This Time

I’m sure MOST of you have read that “article” that “explains” the creation of gangster rap, and how it was conceived in some super-secretive meeting in a big mansion full of white music industry executives and politicians looking to jail young Black males to further America’s prison-industrial complex [or some BS like that]. This “article” that I’ve seen floating all over the web is what’s used to pinpoint why Black males are being disproportionately targeted by the police and why hip-hop music as a whole is DEAD and filled with nothing but guns, drugs and big-booty b*tches. I personally don’t believe that story to be true NOR do I subscribe to the theory that hip-hop even died because of gangsta-rap, but regardless of YOUR opinion on what killed it, we can definitely engage in a debate. But, when it comes to why is R&B dead, I’m really NOT interested in hearing your far-fetched, BS tales of corporate malevolence and institutionalized racism when the reality is much more simple than that: It’s DEAD because WE stopped continually demanding and supporting TALENT above all else.

And make no mistake about it: R&B is just as, if not MORE dead than Hip-Hop. Now I don’t want to turn this into a debate between the young generation and the older generations, where I come in here and blame the youth for having a terrible taste in music and allowing our soul music to slowly deteriorate because THAT is a BULLSH*T argument. Whether you are 14 or 34 or 54, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say YOU can personally attest to the decline in SINGING ABILITY that we are inundated with in the genre today. Whether you grew up on Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige, Patti Labelle or Aretha Franklin, it seems the older we all get, the less QUALITY singers we are hearing. And there’s no such thing as Gangsta-R&B, so there was NOT some back room meeting by corporation heads to destroy the music, because the simple fact is WE are the ones responsible for DESTROYING R&B.

WE Stopped Caring Whether Or Not Our Singers Could SING.

There once was a time when a thing called the “radio” was responsible for breaking in acts, and even if you are 16 or 17, you still should be able to remember THAT. When listening to the radio, it was you, the artists’ voice and an instrumental and that person’s voice was either GOOD or BAD. That may seem like a very simplistic statement, but it was THAT simplicity that made R&B so great. When I first heard Mariah Carey, Mary J., Alicia Keys, and Deborah Cox, my brain processed that there was a woman singing a song; Then it processed whether she even had the vocal abilities to sing or not; and THEN it processed how much I liked her abilities. We all liked different levels of good, but one thing was apparent about ALL of our noteworthy singers, which brings me to my second point:

WE Stopped Demanding Singers Had SOUL

I don’t care WHAT you were singing about, having SOUL was a key element in singing. So many singers today just utter useless, pointless and empty words with an unemphatic delivery. I’m not saying EVERY song had to be as powerful as Sam Cooke’s “Change Is Gonna Come” but at we expected – no, DEMANDED – every act that stepped in front of us to be CAPABLE of singing. If you are gonna utter mindless BS like “Gucci this/Gucci that” AT LEAST have some modicum of vocal ability to cover up your vapid lyrics [and vapid lyrics are NOTHING new in R&B].

WE Started To Care TOO Much What Singers Look Like

The music industry has been superficial since it’s inception and we ALL know that [Hell my childhood music featured Diddy forcing Kelly Price's chubby-ass out of the "Mo Money, Mo Problems" video], but WE as the listeners STILL managed to demand that sexy singers STILL provide skill. In fact, one lost relic of our R&B fandom is the fact that singing skill use to MAKE someone more attractive than they really were. Women with A-cups and flat cakes had dudes going crazy, and women STAYED overlooking some male singers GUTS because they could “sang.”

Aristotle once said: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Well since R&B nowadays is untalented, uninspired utter garbage, yet it’s what WE continue to support, who is REALLY to blame for the sharp decline in quality music?

This Is Your Conscience

When Lincoln Anthony Blades is not writing for his controversial and critically acclaimed blog ThisIsYourConscience.com, he can be found contributing articles for Uptown Magazine. Lincoln wrote the hilarious and insightful book "You're Not A Victim, You're A Volunteer: How To Stop Letting Love Kick Your Ass". He is also a public speaker who has sat on panels all over North America and the Caribbean.

35 Comments

  1. lincolnanthonyblades

    07/03/2012 at 2:31 AM

    Ladies & Gentlemen, Do YOU Think R&B Is Dead? And If So, Why?!

  2. Jamaalism

    07/03/2012 at 2:57 AM

    I agree that the quality of R&B has declined over the past few years but it's not because of the audience's lack of support for acts they haven't even had an opportunity to hear.

    I don't know what 'article' you're referring to at the beginning of your post but I can tell you that corporations exert incredible power and control over what gets heard online, over the air or on your tv set. In fact, I'd wager they have more than 50% influence over the likelihood that an artist's music is going reach your ear (though I'm sure that influence is diminishing due to the encroaching influence of Social Media).

    The reality is that many talented musicians need to earn a living first so without that friendly corporate cash advance, most music gets put on the back burner. Especially if you need quality production because you can't retain a live band (not enough people in the R&B genre play instruments anymore).

    On another note, do you think it matters if a singer writes their own lyrics or not? I mean, how much soul could a singer have if they're reciting someone else's creative?

    • DBoySlim

      07/03/2012 at 1:34 PM

      I think it matters if a singer writes their own material. You could be singing a song about something you don't like or agree with but the lyrics may hide its true intent. For example, many people don't know that Luther Vandross's Superstar was a remake about a woman having a one night stand with a rock star. There can be hidden meanings in lyrics that the writer may have intended but the singer has no idea they are there.

      • lincolnanthonyblades

        07/03/2012 at 3:00 PM

        I Don't Think It Matters If The Singer Writes Their Own Lyrics In Terms Of How Good They Are…But I Will Say That A Good Singer Who Can Write And Perform Is Extremely Impressive

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      07/03/2012 at 2:59 PM

      I Should Have Linked To The "Article" About Rap, So Here It Is: http://www.hiphopisread.com/2012/04/secret-meetin

  3. Vanessa

    07/03/2012 at 3:03 AM

    R&B has been dead for a very very very long time and I think now everybody is starting to realize it now for one reason and one reason only…most of our "R&B" singers have decided to do dance music and because they are "singing" (i have to use the term lightly) people think that it is R&B. To be honest I dont even think alot of people listening to music now even know what R&B is to be honest, come to think of it. Regardless like I say with the Hip Hop is dead argument, this is all our faults (yes the consumer) because at one point we stopped looking for songs that were timeless and looking for songs that were catchy they fed our quick music fixes …

    P.S.: Lincoln I love your blog…its the best thing since McDonalds put toys in Happy Meals :D

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      07/03/2012 at 3:01 PM

      Good Point About Dance Music!

      Thanks For Reading Vanessa!

  4. Jay Jay

    07/03/2012 at 3:09 AM

    good points. I cannot disagree. I can add that the dawning of sample types beats and drum loops had made music production simple to those who have no musical sense. Since the removal of live instrumentation and composition..music has declined in quality. There is no soul in the beat unless the song sampled had soul in it like a Curtis Mayfield song for example.

    • petersburgh

      07/03/2012 at 6:19 AM

      cosign

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      07/03/2012 at 3:01 PM

      Co-Sign!

  5. petersburgh

    07/03/2012 at 6:30 AM

    I totally agree that it has no souls as we both acknowledge that on one of your previous podcast and I do believe R & B died a while ago. Why? Well I agree with your points on it as well as Jay Jay's point of the use of the drumming machine as opposed to actual instrumental music and that's why I love alternative and some rock. I believe the corporations used society's misguided notions of beauty, sex appeal and such to promote talentless artists and that backfired on society since it was pretty cool when someone was "an okay" singer but looked hott but now when totally talentless singers began to "dominate" sales, those who are musically inclined and those who have an ear for talent began to question it but were shut down by the masses who considered sales and freshness over talent. Who killed R & B? We did but sadly we're still looking for the shooter

    • NurseJilly

      07/03/2012 at 9:03 AM

      Well said!!

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      07/03/2012 at 2:55 PM

      100% Co-Sign!

  6. DBoySlim

    07/03/2012 at 9:29 AM

    Just my opinion but you cannot use MJB as an example of a good singer. She has passion and can hold a note but lets be real, she is not a great singer.

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      07/03/2012 at 3:02 PM

      You Won't Even Call Mary J. A "GOOD" Singer?! Really?!

      What Would You Consider A Good And A Great Singer?

  7. @WheresRonald

    07/03/2012 at 9:58 AM

    Ahem… Orange Juice Jones, Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Total, Kut Klose, TLC, Aaliyah…

    Take this argument and go that way >>> There's always been leading R&B artists that couldn't really "SANG". This is one of those…

    "I don’t want to turn this into a debate between the young generation and the older generations, where I come in here and blame the youth for having a terrible taste in music and allowing our soul music to slowly deteriorate because THAT is a BULLSH*T argument."

    …bullshit arguments LoL

    You are romanticizing the past sir.

    • cynicaloptmst81

      07/03/2012 at 2:39 PM

      HOLD UP! Flag on the play!

      They weren't the strongest singers…at all. But they could hold their own…stay in tune. These newbies just can't sing…and can barely dance! Paula…Janet…Aaliyah…were at least great dancers/performers…TLC too. And Chili has a really nice voice! Plus, Janet, TLC, Aaliyah…Total here and there…they had GREAT songs!

      You, sir, are trippin, lol…

      • lincolnanthonyblades

        07/03/2012 at 2:58 PM

        You Got To This Comment Just Before I Did…Like I Said Before There Were LEVELS Of Good, But Finding Decent Quality Is Hard As Hell Today

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      07/03/2012 at 2:56 PM

      Quick Question: Who Are The GREAT Singers In Their PRIME Right NOW?! Please Provide Me The List Of TODAY'S Singers Who Can Really "SANG"..

      • Paul B.

        07/04/2012 at 1:11 AM

        Actual singing ability? Eric Benet, Anthony Hamilton, Jill Scott…for starters

        • lincolnanthonyblades

          07/04/2012 at 2:07 AM

          You Would Consider All Three Of Them To Be In Their PRIME Right NOW?!

  8. Kam

    07/03/2012 at 10:39 AM

    I have to agree there were not so great singers in the past but there was still room for actual singers. Now a days only people with an image with no real singing ability are getting promoted. Back in the day we had Whitney, Anita and we still had tlc and Aaliyah. Though they weren't phenomenal singers I still believe Aaliyah, T-Boz and Chilli can blow a todays artist like Rihanna out the water vocally.

    I don't think R&B has died there is still Sade, Maxwell who are releasing quality and beautiful music using real instruments and real vocals. So instead of complaining I ignore the music with no substance and purchase the few quality songs that are being released.

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      07/03/2012 at 3:14 PM

      Agreed.

  9. MistaHarsh

    07/03/2012 at 1:43 PM

    If you've noticed R+B has slowly become dance music. Up tempo music is what dominates the charts across the board. The days of Whitney like ballads are done. All those other 90s acts that you mentioned use to kill the slow jams but most of them couldn't hang with Chris brown on the dance floor and that is what its about today. Its not that we aren't demanding talent its that music artist are full packaged products now they're entertainers(dancers/actors/actresses/spokespersons/Correction Officers) the music is not enough they have to be marketable(See Jen Hudson) and thats because most of the time the music is not listened to while staring at the radio but rather in clubs in movies, on the way to work, at work…in other words the music is just background for whatever it is we do in our day to day.

    • lincolnanthonyblades

      07/03/2012 at 3:16 PM

      Real Talk.

      I Think The Dance Craze Is Due In Part To Overseas Sales. It Seems Like North American Artists Are Getting Raped So Hard By Their Labels That They Realize They Need An International Appeal In Order For Their Records To Become Profitable.

      • petersburgh

        07/03/2012 at 6:15 PM

        Almost 100% of R & B tracks are techno/ trance influenced to grab the European and Asian markets

      • MistaHarsh

        07/03/2012 at 7:57 PM

        Yup! artists now realize that North America ain't sheit…not sure if you watched the frankie beverly's speech at the BET awards but he said something so simple but yet profound> "Anybody who is pursuing this thing, get in it and do what you want to do. Don’t fall for the flavor of the week, baby…Play your music, no matter what it is.” That advice can only be given from a LIFETIME award recipient not a flash in the pan artist.

    • petersburgh

      07/03/2012 at 6:13 PM

      Yes I think people nowadays get confused about what an artist and what an entertainer is. 90% of what people call singers are entertainers and I agree because when I'm in the club and some half ass singer's song is playing I'm still going to find some girl to dance with. I don't listen to any R & B albums when I'm home trying to relax.I just can't

  10. @ReggieKrayBlog

    07/03/2012 at 7:20 PM

    R&B these days are very different from what it was in the past. I think these days people are more concerned about quantity instead of quality. I think that is why the oldies are still goodies. I really think nobody has passed the torch as it relates to being the "king" of R&B. think Neo-Soul or Soul music is where people get their real genuine music fix and connection to the great ones of the past. Real artist doing real music that come from a real soulful place not influenced by the masses.

    #DatIshKray

  11. cyn cyn

    07/05/2012 at 4:22 PM

    someone asked me "how come you listen to that old stuff" and i said "what good R&B music, man this is the ish, better than that bullshit rap junk now played on the radio and videos". i was offended and sad because R&B has been dead for a while.. I agree with this article. id rather listen to "back in the day" music then listen to that corrupted persuasive music today.

    listening to michael jackson= Heaven can wait.. as i speak!!

  12. James

    01/11/2013 at 12:19 AM

    I agree with this post. I actually searched for the term "R&B is dead." Its sad, because music is truely pitiful right now.

  13. James

    01/11/2013 at 12:21 AM

    I'd also like to add that there should be a pic of Mariah Carey up there. Butterfly is one of the best R&B/pop albums ever made.

  14. old man

    08/07/2013 at 6:26 AM

    I agree rnb and rap sucks now. As for rnb that euro music isn't my thing I listen to the older rnb that is real music. Reality is all this industry see now is OK they have looks but they can't sing they're like we can market them though superficial garbage. Betty Wright did an album with the roots and she kills these corporate driven new girls. And Robert glasper has this album black radio which is smoking with good music and is about to drop black radio 2. You have artist like kem who make real music too. Our black artist need to get their soul back your not European.

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