Friday, October 10, 2008

What the fuck happened to R&B? Part Two.

In the ‘70s you had The O”Jays, Harold Melvin And The Blue Notes, James Brown at the height of his powers and a slew of other mainstream and more obscure soul artists, the ‘80s gave us D-Train, SOS Band, Soul II Soul and countless others, the ‘90s saw r&b being more integrated into rap, with artists like SWV, 112 and Mary J Blige being prolific. The early part of this decade showed some promise, but now what do we get? “Lip Gloss” by Lil Mama, well that’s rap, and it’s crap, though the video is cute I have to say, Ne-Yo (quite saccharine), Fergie (slightly r&b but very annoying) and Rihanna (not really r&b, more trying to be everything all at once, like Black Eyed Peas, thus v. annoying).

It seems that soul is gone from the mainstream for the moment, and anyway punters in top 40 joints want to hear Journey, so that they can break away from the stand/shuffle around/talk about your job/S.O./Ex ring and dance for two and a half minutes. Rap tracks like “Lollipop “ and r&b tunes like “Do It To It” by Cherish (which I like btw) also serve this purpose, and the fact that they clock in at galloping tempos like 72 and 73 beats per minute means you don’t have to exert yourself. When did pothead music become club fare?

As a dj friend of mine says, the reason why slow ass rap and r&b cuts get requested in clubs is because they are played in endless rotation on the radio and listened to in the car by people who make out on the sofa at home to Dave Matthews Band and Dido (an all round gross picture you might concur). You can’t even play a shagging album cut in the mainstream clubs now without getting looks of bewilderment.

I remember playing the Paul Oakenfold mix of Justin Timberlake’s “Rock Your Body” — it’s a mid-tempo discoish mix with a great bassline — one night only to have some dude in a stripey man blouse ask me to, and I quote, “play something more accessible.” I told him if he could find something more accessible than Justin Timberlake that I would start a weekly petition to have him (the dude not Justin) awarded a Nobel Prize. He kinda grunted at me, he probably thought Nobel Prize was a new rapper on P Duddly’s Bad Boy Entertainment imprint.

So though I rant, all these processes, and more, have contributed to the soulless state of r&b, and then you notice underground parties playing top 40 rap — ironically of course — and you think what could be next? The ironic moustache being replaced by an ironic Kid 'n Play type flat top (don’t make me say I told you so when it happens). Even the undergound has ditched the soul and embraced the cheese.



Cimi said...

Too true, Chris Orr. You know I love a love jam more than the air that I breathe. And I hate to see it become trash.

I will say, Brandy's "Full Moon" IS one of the more amazing and overlooked jams. I still contend that my favorite era of r&b is from about 1992-2002. Almost everything after that is catchy at best.

In response to Ne-yo, I thoroughly recommend that you listen to the first self-titled album. It really does have some substance, and dare I say it, has become one of my top tens.

Also, just for your consideration, because I miss trading r&b whispers with you, Dwele's self titled album is a must have.

BananaSpam said...

Yep Cimi, Ne Yo's first one was pretty good, and that remix with LL Cool J on it was wicked too! Ditto on Dwele, and ditto on the time frame for good modern R&B.

Check out Rahsaan Patterson's last album, Wines And Spirits it's great!

Robin Thicke's new one is not too shabby either.