Where is the love in R&B?
It seems ironic of a question to direct towards a genre positioned in passion and sensuality, right? Yet, when you listen to R&B of the classic times, such as Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s 1972 duet “Where is the Love?” in comparison to the drained arrangement of R&B today, you can feel the disconnect of love.
The genre has certainly seen icons like Patti LaBelle, Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige and Marvin Gaye lead an emotional state of music that identified with romance and vulnerability. However, after the idea of radical changes to the genre, there has been a blurred discordant of sounds and hyper-sexual themes moving us from baby-making music to a plain sight pop approval.
“R&B is still R&B, it’s just right now in the music business they’re combing so much with R&B that you don’t know what it is anymore,” songstress Tweet told REVOLT.
“We need to stray away from the one-track mind that music is in now. Everybody wants to sound the same, look the same, everybody wants that 808 and the dance that goes with the song. Let’s get back to when there were different genres. It’s lost the love the soul of it is missing, and we need to get back to the basics,” she added.
At the moment, there’s a presence of new artists bridging the gap, such as Kehlani, Jazmine Sullivan and Miguel, but will people take a chance on them?
While one would amuse the direction as a progressive state of R&B, the sentiment of subject and transparent stylistic lyrics still retract from the unwilling lament of timeless rhythm and blues. There is a blatant playing field between modern and traditional R&B, with a success response placed on single-driven records, and abandoning the emotional foundation it was built on.
“I think in our trade of music, we’re being really self-absorbed,” singer Avant said. “It’s all about us. We want you guys to buy the music, but we’re not including you on any of it.”
So at what point did R&B lose its feeling?
Was it when the emphasis of the song shifted from substance and sensitivity to the feature and who produced it? Or possibly when the coined “rap-singing” became an element? Perhaps a lack of creative development from labels?
Depends who you’re asking.
But what can be said about the state of R&B as of 2015 and heading into this year, it is evolving. Whether we compare or adjust, R&B is expanding with the test of time. As of now, the only quality that we can hope will embed into the genre for generations to follow is the love.