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R. Kelly and the Slow, Unfortunate Death of R&B

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This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience. 

  by Clayton Perry

In the world of R&B, there used to be a day and age when vocal talent, unbridled passion and a powerful message were the sole markers of a great performer.  Throughout the past four decades, Ray Charles declared that he had "Georgia on [His] Mind" (1960); Marvin Gaye asked the world, "What's Going On?" (1971); Aretha Franklin took us onto the "Freeway of Love" (1985); and Mary J. Blige informed us of her search for a "Real Love" (1992).  While each of the aforementioned artists blessed the genre with their own style and creativity, despite their talents, all they needed, to rock a crowd or make fans swoon, was a microphone and a bit of "soul."  Every now and again, the genre would be graced by the presence of someone, like James Brown, who would add a little bit of "flavor" into the mix.  But ultimately, the key measure of a singer was the power of their voice and the message of their music.

It is often overlooked that the most successful R&B artists of yore had solid roots in the church.  And perhaps, as a sign of the times, they unconsciously and intrinsically understood the need to positively represent the black community.  Although facing tremendous pressures as international stars in a white-controlled industry, black artists were keenly aware of the responsibility they had in helping open doors for future black singers.  During the past decade, the commercialization of hip-hop has kicked open the doors of opportunity for R&B artists to flourish.  Sadly, however, the quality of music, along with the messages within the music, has steadily declined.

Behold, the slow and unfortunate death of R&B.

For the past seven weeks, Fantasia's heart-felt ballad, "When I See U," has ruled Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop charts.  Overtaking the #1 spot on July 7, 2007 , the single seems poised for a few more weeks at the top spot.  As it stands, the song ranks third behind Robin Thicke's "Lost Without U" (11 weeks) and T-Pain's "Buy U a Drink" (8 weeks), as the longest-running chart-topper in 2007.  Fantasia is slowly etching her way into R&B history, with "When I See U" being her first #1 hit on the chart.  Despite her success on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, however, "When I See U" fared less successfully on the Hot 100 — peaking at #32.

What gives?  Surely something's amiss, right?  Yes, indeed: R&B is dead and R. Kelly, along with a string of contemporary artists, pulled the trigger!

[SIDENOTE:  Before continuing, it must be acknowledged that R. Kelly did not buy the gun involved in the murder of R&B.  Black consumer preferences and industry motives also hold much of the blame.  Nevertheless, as the "Pied Piper of R&B," R. Kelly's schizophrenic nature greatly compromised the genre, as he flip-flopped between sentimental crooner and light-hearted rapper.  His selection of music and artistic imagery would begin an unstoppable trend that would be unfortunately followed and heavily exploited.]

As the most successful R&B male artist of the 1990s, R. Kelly's imprint on the genre is without measure or denial.  Hailed as the R&B Wunderkind, Kelly has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide and was the best-selling R&B male artist of the 1990s.  With the release of R. in 1999, Kelly garnered his sixteenth Top 10 hit on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts (with half of them being #1s).  In addition, by the decade's end, the "Pied Piper of R&B" assisted in the launch of the careers of Aaliyah and Kelly Price, all while writing and producing chart-topping R&B singles for Michael Jackson ("You Are Not Alone") and Maxwell ("Fortunate").  By this point in his remarkable career, there was relatively little left to prove to the industry, his peers, or his critics.  Therefore, R&B's No. 1 crooner decided to abandon traditional R&B roots by blending his musical stylings with hip-hop influences. 

R. Kelly's future singles (and their multiple remixes) would soon be the home of radio-friendly rappers, especially Jay-Z, with whom he would also later record two full-length albums: 2002's The Best of Both Worlds and 2004's Unfinished Business.  Thus, at the turn of the century, gone– forever– was the traditional R&B crooner.  And sadly, the future crop of younger R&B talents would follow suit, avoiding the risk of having their offerings marginalized by radio, the industry or consumer preferences.  Ironically, though, few of the younger stars have achieved notable success.  The most impressive exceptions being Usher, Mario, Chris Brown, and Ne-Yo, although their talents, influence and creativity pale in comparison.

Can the "soul" of R&B be resuscitated?  For now, unfortunately, the answer seems to be "no."  According to Billboard, R&B sales dropped 18.4 percent between 2005 and 2006 to 117 million units.  Although market forces and consumer preferences have been the central reasons, I blame new "R&B" artists for abandoning the genre, in whole or part, and failing to create music that can stand the tests of time.  Over the past decade, the traditional thematic elements of R&B have been replaced by those espoused by the burgeoning hip-hop phenomenon.  To see the fall and rapid decline of the R&B genre, one only has to look at the financial and marketing success of R. Kelly's career.

With the onslaught of urban pop and crunk & B, is there any turning back?  Although consumer preferences, along with industry marketing, have dictated otherwise, the "soul" of contemporary R&B seems to only thrive amongst women who flaunt their sexuality unremittingly and men who are engaged constantly in hyper-masculine posturing.

Consider the career of Beyonce Knowles, who released 15 singles as a solo artists between 2002 and 2007, but only produced two solid R&B tracks, "Irreplaceable" and "Listen," in that time (thanks to Ne-Yo and Anne Preven's credit).  To boot, her most successful offerings have strayed from the traditional R&B format and utilized "flavor of the month" beats and radio-friendly hip-hop artists.  While it may be pointless to some to compare the talents of Beyonce to the likes of her contemporaries (Faith Evans, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys, etc.), it must be said that vast body of work created by her peers has more substance, less focus on overt sexuality and a considerably higher level of maturity.  Did Beyonce really ask ladies to "pat their weave" in "Get Me Bodied"?

Or consider the career of Usher Raymond, whose most recent singles "Yeah!" and "Lovers and Friends" have reshaped the very contours of the R&B landscape, with the assistance of Southern hip-hop producer Lil' Jon.  Although regarded by many as the male leader of the contemporary R&B pack, one would think that his influence, after thirteen years in the industry, would be more profound and deeply entrenched.  During the span of Usher's entire career, between the years of 1994 and 2007, legendary R&B pioneer Gerald Levert recorded thirteen studio albums– nine solo albums, one with family-group Levert, two with LSG and one posthumous release with his father, Eddie Levert — and charted twenty-two singles on the R&B charts.  Given the substantial body of work created by Gerald Levert and others artists, one may wonder where Usher's focus is, as there is plenty of room left to fill in Gerald Levert's shoes.

Notwithstanding the commercial pressures Beyonce and Usher face, by crossing-over and providing music for a mainstream audience, it appears as if they are being blind-sided by the "trappings" of the industry and more interested in building a brand-name for themselves, rather than creating thoughtful, ground-breaking music for the masses.  Both artists cling as tightly to the title of "singer," as they do the following: "actor," "fashion designer," "dancer" and "producer."  Taken altogether, considering the fact that Beyonce allegedly recorded her beautifully-packaged "train wreck," B'Day, in two weeks and Usher released his best-selling Confessions without a diverse sampling of songs that appreciated "replay value," do contemporary R&B artists feel compelled to perfect their craft and, simply, focus on the music?

Within the current state of the music industry, is it possible for traditional, contemporary R&B artists to survive without compromising the genre?

Consider the career of Tamia, whose Between Friends (2006) only sold 18,000 copies in the first week of its release, despite favorable reviews– peaking at #66 on the Billboard 200 chart.  To make matters worse, despite Tamia's beauty, elegance and vocal chops, the last single that she had on the Hot 100 was 2003's "Officially Missing You," which peaked at #83, although becoming a moderate R&B hit and Top 5 hit on the Hot Dance Club Play chart.  In a day and age when vocal talent is not a prerequisite for a record contract or substance a requirement for industry success, it is quite puzzling that Tamia, who possess both, has found difficulty in receiving widespread consumer support, despite the fact that she has had five Top 10 R&B hits over the span of her young career.  One would be foolish to say that she has nothing (of quality) left to offer the R&B game; nevertheless, the four-time Grammy nominee released Between Friends independently through her own imprint, Plus 1 Music Group.

Or consider the career of Brian McKnight, whose Gemini (2005) and Ten (2006) became the first CDs in his illustrious career to fail to receive gold certification or have any of their singles chart on the Hot 100, despite the moderate successes of "What We Do Here" (#35), "Everytime You Go Away" (#36) and "Find Myself in You" (#27) on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts.  When did marketing a 16-time Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist (piano, guitar, bass guitar, drums, percussions, trombone, tuba, French horn and trumpet) become such a chore?  Perhaps McKnight's fortunes might increase if he learned how to "pop, lock, and drop it."

So… where does R&B go from here?  As it stands, there seems to be nothing to save R&B, except the rare instance that an artist, producer, or independent label decides to put out music that stays true to its traditional roots and can also rally the black community to lend financial support, through purchase, to those artists.

Consider the career of Jill Scott.  Although Jill Scott has been nominated for nine Grammys (and won two), her best performance on the Hot 100 has been the #43 slot, where she peaked in 2001 with "A Long Walk," a #9 hit on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts.  Despite the fact that both of her studio albums, 2001's Who Is Jill Scott and 2005's Beautifully Human, were nominated for Best R&B album, Scott's music is relatively unknown to mainstream music lovers, although she has had 9 singles to chart on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, with 4 also charting on the U.K. singles chart.  Her career's safety and longevity, however, has been supplanted by her partnership with Hidden Beach Recordings, which "has amassed a loyal and growing fan base., and has garnered numerous awards and accolades for both its artistic achievements as well as its cutting edge marketing exploits"

I believe that the fate of Jill Scott's career will also, ultimately, decide that of the R&B genre.  On September 25, 2007 , Scott will release The Real Thing, her third studio album.  If successful, the album will not only bring much-needed support, attention, and mainstream success to a cadre of talented R&B artists, like India.Arie and Musiq Soulchild, but also support the foundations of a genre that is in desperate need of a savior.  Granted, it goes without saying that Jill Scott does not fit the music industry's mainstream molds of beauty or success.  She's assertive, independent, dark-skinned, and intelligent.  A stark contrast from other contemporary artists, her success would speak just as much about the world's perceptions of the qualities of black women as it would say about black music.  More importantly, Scott's success would serve as a public dismantling of the notion that one has to sell their body, "soul," or image in order to sell a record.

So… is R&B really dead?  In all honesty, R&B, if not dead, is on life support.  The state of R&B music is a direct reflection of the state of Black America.  As the division between the "haves" (those who make it) and the "have-nots" (those left along the wayside) increases, the viability of group cohesiveness decreases.  It is troubling that artists and industry insiders that have made it to the mountaintop and experienced great personal and financial success tend to also be the ones that fail to take risks in creating or supporting alternative voices and cultural discourse — lest they too should fall.  When did it become impossible or improbable for the world's best-selling black artists to reflect deeply about the world that surrounds them or challenge their listeners to think or expect the unexpected or demand more than a catchy hook laced over a flashy beat?  When will consumers, in particular black ones, begin to support artists that address the realities of race, sex and politics as much as those that create mindlessly entertaining club-bangers?  Balance is needed, not only in the representations of blackness in music and other mass media but, also, in Black America's reception of the status quo, for Black Americans are not a monolithic people.  There is as much room for Beyonce and Usher, as there is for Tamia and Brian McKnight.  However, the reality of the situation is this: if Black America looked at itself, naked and unashamed, an artist like Jill Scott would shine back in the mirror.  Jill Scott is the truth and her music is honest and reflective of our times, even if Timbaland fails to produce her tracks.  If we, as black people, find the music of Jill Scott unmarketable, undesirable and unworthy of our financial support, then what are we saying about the "soul" of us?  Perhaps we, too, are dead.


Streaming Video of Jill Scott's "Hate on Me" [Live from SoulStage]. Vh1.com's VSPOT.

Garnes, Jr. Edward M. "Facedown in the Mainstream: Cultural Pimpin' & Hip Hop." 16 May 2007. From Afros to Shelltoes: Art, Action, and Conversation

Saul Williams' Open Letter To Oprah Winfrey. 27 April 2007. BallerStatus.com

Coleman, Esther. "Can Hip Hop Activists Battle the Bling?" 13 January 2007. NUBIANO Project / NUBIANO Exchange

Hunter-Kirby, Ayofemi. "Dear Black Woman, You Are Not a Victim." 18 April 2007. BlogCritics.com

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About Clayton Perry

  • Marcus

    TIMBALAND is the root producer of this crisis.
    The no-bass/techno/pop music he’s “producing” is destroying the music we love.
    R Kelly/ Beyonce/Usher just tried to follow the TIMBALAND sound.

  • bringbackmusic

    First of all, people don’t decide what they like anymore. The radio execs and record co. CEO do. The crap that is made nowadays is cheaper for the record companies than trynna make real music, and it’s disposable so they saturate the airwaves with it. That’s why everyone likes it in the firstplace. It’s not that people wouldn’t like music with substance anymore, but the record labels won’t spend money on making real music. If the media forced real R&B down everyone’s throat like this garbage, real R&B artists would fare just as well as Usher. But artists are manufactured now. They’re not even really worthy of the title “artist” anymore. It pisses me off how young people nowadays (I’m young too, 23) think real music is stupid and that the radio crap is real music.

  • Any R&B fan who’s seen all 12 parts of R Kelly’s so called “hip-hopera” ‘Trapped in the closet’ should be very very worried. Painfully funny.

  • alex

    I’m not going to defend either Usher/Beyonce because they have not stood the test of time yet.

    Evolution is an evitable part of life.What does not change,grow or evolve eventually perishes. Marvin G revolutionised music. R.Kelly is the Marvin G of our 21st century.

    The reason why Marvin’s father mudered him was partly because of your same mind set.R Kelly cannot be blamed for the downsizing that has prevailed in R&B music.He is just so much of a geneus that he evolves with time…the evolving music industry bus.Quincy Jones,Teddy Reiley and Baby Face all crumbled under the bus race revolution.

    If you don’t believe me ask his peers Keith Sweat,Joe Thomas and Brain Mcknight?They will tell you that R Kelly has stood the test of time because of his ability to revamp himself.If you still don’t believe me why don’t you ask legends from old school such as Ronald Isley (whose career he ressureated)?The truth is that music like anything else has changed over time.This does not apply to music only for movies like the matrix differ vastly from Rambo or Terminator.Would you rather we were still watching black and white tv?You surely cannot tell me that Eminem sounds like Vanilla Ice either?What about Robbie Williams contrasted to Elvis presley?Surely there is change across every art form,genre or clour but not only in black’s R & B music?

    I always laugh when i hear people critizise artists who are doing their art for money.Excuse me but you people are centimentalists and naive to say the least.These artists do their art so that they can put food on the table but not sorely to entertain your souls.If you do not believe me then go and ask the Roots or Common.They held the same view before they realised that they were naive.

    What is happening to Maxwell,Bilal and Erykah Badu?Surely those are the best artists of our time?Why do you think D’Angelo takes so long to produce an album?Ofcourse if i knew that most people don’t care about the content in albums i would take long to revamp and reproduce myself if it was not that easy to compete with the likes of R Kelly.Or incidently you Happy people/you save me was R’s worst selling album.You know why?Because it had no raunchy your ‘booty is calling’ lyrics..get the point?

    The truth of the matter is that R Kelly is the Michael Jordan of R & B music.He is the Bob Marley,The Marvin Gaye and The James Brown of the 21st century.If there is one thing that he must be recommended for is”Being a music geneus of our time”.Have you ever asked yourself this,”What would R & B be withput the “R”????

  • Brittni

    I really do agree with this whole article. I’m only nineteen years old but I know what real R&B sounds like and it’s not the crap that’s out now. I grew up with my mom playing music ranging from chaka khan to new edition and to this day I even listen to their music on my own. I always find myself saying that I miss the 90’s mainly because I remember all of the hot r&b music that was out back then. Everyone had their own sound now everyone sounds the same. It kills me that artists like Tamia, Deborah Cox, and Toni Braxton can no longer sell albums like they used to because of all this stupidness that’s out right now. Nowadays I only listen to the r&b that I know and love from back in the day because it all had meaning not just talking about patting somebody’s weave and buying someone a “drank” its annoying if you ask me

  • Dee

    I’m just a white girl from Texas, but I love music with soul. I am tired of this shallow, sexualized, and materialistic music being passed off as R&B. I miss Brian McKnight, Boys II Men, etc. from back in the 90’s, which is what I grew up on. I miss the singers that sing with conviction, and from a deep place within their soul…you know, the ones that make you feel what they feel. Alicia Keys is the only current popular artist I feel that has made music that will stand the test of time and be right along side songs like “Tracks of My Tears” or “Natural Woman” or “One Last Cry” Everything else topping the charts right now that’s trying to pass as R&B is pretty forgettable in the grand scheme of things.

  • I just have two words for you guys.

    “John Legend”

  • Adonis

    Who do I consider to be TRUE R&B artists?

    Tank, Jagged Edge, 112 (first album), Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, 702, Avant, Bobby Valentino, Carl Thomas, Co-Ed, Tony Toni Tone, Donell Jones, Dwele, Faith Evans, Floetry, Jon B., Kindred the Family Soul, Lauryn Hill, Mint Condition, Playa.

    Most of them are endangered or extinct.

  • B-hard paper stacks

    YO check it out! as an avid r&b purchaser/conisuier, in my heart of hearts it would be alie to say r&b is dead the industry,granted has changed since the influencail marivn gaye made “what’s goin on” money was’nt a factor then but guess what it is now! and even though i love usher and beyonce the songs that they have made for radio are MADE FOR RADIO and are made to be appealing and bring in record buyers,on the flip side beyonce has increadible talent, and a even better voice and has plenty of r&b songs on her first album which seemed to go unoticed by our author here. and on that note Usher who was has had one of the greatest r&b albums of all time with conffesions should not be singled out in such a crude way. In addition r&b is far from dead with artist like brian Mckinght, tamia, tank, mario, usher, beyonce, and yes r.kelly it’s true that his sytle has changed in the last few years but facts are facts. The state of r&b is not in any immediate danger, what is though is it’s brother hip-hop!

  • I am really upset that you did not mention John Legend when referring to contemporary R&B artists who are doing well at maintaining R&B and keeping it alive. He is preserving the Roots of R&B and soul music while creating new innovative music. He is a living Legend as a singer/songwriter/musician and deserves your respect and recognition. He has more class than any other R&B artist right now, and can perform live better that any other artist right now. John Legend keeps it all the way real.

  • Jake

    I am not African-American, I am just a white boy, raised in the country. My step-father who rasied me was from the inner-city. He raised my brother, sister and I on R&B. The music has indeed gone down hill, and in a bad way. What happened to the likes of Boyz II Men, the ones who said “I’ll make love to you, like you want me to”? Nowadays its not making love, its sex with “bitches”, and it is disgusting. R&B used to be about love and showing emotion through sheer talent. I grew up on Boyz II Men, Babyface, Ginuwin, Jodeci, Maxwell, good R. Kelly, New Edition, LSG, Keith Sweat, and Dru Hill. Today we must rely on names such as Mario, Ne-yo, and Usher, who only at times show the true crooner. But that doesnt mean that no one is producing good R&B…Avant(especially), Anthony Hamilton, Tank, Eric Cire, and Musiq all produce quality music. But their sounds aren’t getting played because of the moral standards of the day. Now, as I mentioned before, its not about love and emotion, its about getting paid and getting laid. This rockstar mentaility is so unfair not only to the fans, but to the artists. Marvin Gaye, Luther Vandross, Aretha, Whitney,Boyz II Men, and the Temptations all have a place in history because they sang their music with their emotions and their soul. What kind of legacy is Usher going to leave behind, “Yeah”? Come on now ya’ll…where is the love?

  • Joel Chanson

    I am an aspiring artist and artists like Brian McKnight and (the old) R. Kelly used to be my influences. I HATE what R. Kelly has turned himself into. Mr. Clayton is completely right. R. Kelly drove R&B into a place where he can no longer bring it back. I stopped listening to the radio now because every song sounds the same. “Watch me as I count my money in my brand new car with all these women. Be careful though because if you look at me wrong I’ll pull this gun out and kill you. Then, I might go rob your mother, **** your sister and smoke a blunt.” Who wants to hear all that 24/7. Nowadays some R&B songs barely even have a melody. This is very reflctive of where our race is going as well. Think back a few decades about the ideals of blacks. They wanted to change the world. They demanded respect (In the right way) from whites. Now they just talk shit to eachother. I have been told so many times that I would be so successful in the music business. But I think to myself. They’re not going to buy my music. It’s too “old school”. But I refuse to conform to this low quality music. Nowadays you dont even have to have a good voice (T-Pain). I will admit they are creative but can we be versatile please. I make some pretty good club joints but I specialize in “Real R&B”. May I remind yall what R&B is short for. Rhythm & Blues. By definition that would be people like John Legend, Brian McKnight, Alicia Keys, sometimes Beyonce, Musiq Soulchild, Anthony Hamilton. These other arists are not R&B. They are a complete other genre. Pop, crunk & b, or whatever you want to call it. But it definitely aint R&B. T-Pain is NOT Rhythm & Blues. Usher… eh maybe. For the record I will say that Mario, Usher, Genuwine, Akon, and others have had their “R&B” moments. Because isnt balance the main issue here. Songs like “How Do I Breath”, “Let It Burn”, “Differences”, and “Dont Matter” by these artists respectively, are what I would call R&B. All thats really changed is the beat, the technology used, the sounds, things like that. Thats really the way it should be. Think about it, how would emo rock be if they stopped being sad all the time. Let me remind you Rhythm & BLUES. BLUES=Heartfelt, Liberating, Emotions. Not flashy, not talkin shit, just appealing to your audiences emotions. One thing I would like to point out however is that alot of these mainstream “crappy” artists have made true R&B songs. You just dont hear them. If you listen to Ne-Yo’s first album, I believe the 13th track is called “Time”. This is a true R&B track. But it never became a single. In my opinion it was the best song on the CD but they didnt bother making it a single because it’d be a waste of money. It wouldnt have done as well as “Sexy Love”. Still that could pass for an R&B song too if you tried hard enough. So I commend Ne-Yo for using the new technology and keeping true, somewhat, to R&B. To end this let me say WHAT THE HELL was R. Kelly thinking when he remixed “Same Girl”. “Michael Jackson style! Snap your fingers, do ya step. You can do it all by yourself.” What happened to the days when rappers (such as Jay-Z) would quote singers (Carl Thomas “And I wish I never met her at all”). Now the singers (R. Kelly) are trying to be like the rappers (Lil Jon “Snap ya fingers”). Something is horribly wrong here. And if anybody disagrees, I would love to have a battle of the wits so bring it. Maybe you’ll convice me that I’m wrong but I doubt it. We NEED a balance here. Case Closed.

  • Vee

    I agree with the author’s comments on this issue. Just to put this out there I’m an African American female in my early 20’s (the “Generation Y” generation). I grew up in a house-hold of older parents (my parents are 55+) so I had that older, more soulful influence in regards to music. And even though I listened to hip-hop and gansta rap every once in a while with my older cousins, there was a musical balance in our family that is SEVERELY LACKING in the young generation today.

    To be the Devil’s Advocate I will say that Usher, Beyonce, and R. Kelly are not totally to blame for the slow and painful death to R&B. However, they are greatly responsible for it. They are so influential to their listeners and their music should be just as influential. But then there’s also the responsibility of the listener as well. When Beyonce sings a song in which every other line makes one who truly listens question her logic, what does that say about the listeners who recite her songs verbatim? Are they really listening to her words? Or is it the beat, or the so-called “instrumentals”, or her voice that’s so hypnotizing? Something has to be putting them in a trance that many of these teenagers can’t separate fiction from reality. And yes I’ve read in different articles that Beyonce “on-stage” is not the same as Beyonce “off-stage” but for the most part her fans only see “on-stage” Beyonce scantily-clad, running and bouncing around the stage. That’s not entertainment…that’s a softer version of a physical trainer with way too much blonde weave, sparkles and stilettos, her aerobics class behind her and a catchy tune for them to stay on count while they do Pilates. Come on now Beyonce, you have a voice! I’ll give that to you, so USE it. You’re not like some of these female (and some male artists too) artists whose talentless sexy figures will hopefully stretch them out through the music industry until they–their bodies–are stretched out. I understand you’re young and you have a body and as the saying goes “if you’ve got it flaunt it”, but please stop to think about what the industry is saturated with. Everybody’s flaunting it now. So what truly makes you any better or different than a Rihanna or Ciara? And I ask that question to them too. Unfortunately sex sells and that’s what these little girls are buying. The problem is they don’t see anything else, whether that’s the media’s fault, their parents’ fault or a combination of both. Therefore, they buy the sex, they wear the sex, they flaunt the sex, and they don’t know how to handle the sex and this vicious pattern is just perpetuated in the Black community. My only hope is that the music of our older generation doesn’t die off with them, especially since babies are having babies and eventually Generations X,Y, and potentially Z, will all be one Generation XYZ. We all need to accept responsibility as role models for the younger generations, especially those so saturated in the media.

    And then there’s R. What is he doing? He used to make music that was uplifting, emotional, and sometimes a little sexual or risqué that made youth blush if they happened to sing the lyrics a little too loud in front of their parents. But what’s with Trapped in the Closet Part 1 through infinity? Seriously!?! Was he simply just paying for legal bills? There was no point to it. And there seemed to be no end. I have not bought an R. Kelly CD since TP-2.com. In fact in the last year or so I thank God for the iPod. Now I don’t have to listen to the incessant cookie-cutter artists on the radio unless I’m out somewhere or forget to burn myself a new Neo-soul or real R&B mix CD for my car. I definitely need to get one of those cars with the iPod integration. But let me stop going on tangents of my automobile dreams.

    In general everyone (artists, listeners, parents, media) need to take responsibility for the “deceased” and the subsequent domino effect. But more than anything artists need to take a stand and make REAL R&B. Even if they drop in a few million dollars in sales. Regardless ythey’re not living on the streets. What’s truly worse a loss in pay or a loss in quality, music integrity and meaning?

  • Peace Clayton,
    Great post, you should call in on The Cyber Mix Tape Show and talk with us!
    I will email you the particulars and stuff, hope you can make it!

  • Arie

    I agree with almost all of the author’s comments as well as the commenter who mentioned 1987 as the turning point year – that seems about right to me. I graduated high school in 1980. I LOVED the R&B (and good Disco) of the late 70’s and early 80’s.
    All this new stuff seems flat to me – no melody, nothing interesting – it certainly doesn’t make me want to dance. Some commenters mentioned how good Beyonce’s music is for clubs. Do people really wnat to dance to this flat stuff? I bet some Earth, Wind & Fire would make them REALLY want to move.
    Why is it considered good or desirable to talk nasty over someone else’s music (often a really good song from before 1987)?


  • rnb is fading we all agree, bt u r blaming the wrong man. The R-ruh, is the only true rnb artist out there, remember chocolate factory? this is 2 me the best rnb album ever. just wait till he realeses “Makin babies” then u wil have ur rnb album.

  • Good People

    In regards to your article. Mr Kelly has not kill R and B. Old school R and B such as the Temptations, Marvin Gaye etc is another era.Everything changes and evolves sports,Technology etc. Everything change. The one constant is change in every genre of music,Rock,Metal,country talk about that evolution while you are attacking one individual. Please

  • The comment about looking back 20 years is very true. I was a teen in the early 80’s. We had music with much substance because they had BANDS. But even some of the bands with electronics used them tastefully. For example: S.O.S “Sands of Time” and Cameo’s “Word Up” were all or mostly electronic. The difference is that the people selected to use electronic instruments had musical training and knew the basics of song form. In effect they could touch your soul and they were very much FUN. Hip-hoppers lack the ability to reach people in a deep way like that so they have attempted to compensate for their lack of musicianship by appealing to the lowest instincts of humans….sex, greed, flashiness. Sadly, many people growing up under hip-hop are being socialized to think this is good “music” because it is being played over and over to the masses. The music industry is exploiting our “herd instinct.” It is the same herd instinct that will make us shocked if we see a lady walking up the street in her underwear, and call her “naked.” At the same time a lady on the beach in a bathing suit is just as naked but we accept that. But back to the subject…. There were also lousy electronic artists and rappers in the 80’s (particularly from the break dance era) like all of the lousy hip hop artists today. Now, 20+ years later, few people my age-40- want to go to an old school concert featuring the Fat Boys, Spider-D, L.A Dream Team, Secret Weapon, the Good Girls, & Run DMC. Every year recently, however, some groups from that era are selling out shows and having unprecedented recent success- New Edition, Midnight Star, Confunkshun, S.O.S., Teena Marie, Stephanie Mills, Frankie Beverly- and they haven’t had an album on the charts in decades. Some may disagree but I believe that in spite of R. Kelly’s 90’s hype, Tony-Toni-Tone will be more popular in 20 years because they had less albums but more substance and musicianship. The difference is substance in the music and even though Beyonce can sing, her music has as much or less substance as the lousy 80’s groups. When her good looks leave, her popularity will to unless she can find a niche with her voice. When the hip-hop generation matures, I doubt that they will be buying tickets to hear this foolishness 20 years from now.

  • Lynette

    I appreciate this article very much, though I would not have thought to attribute the fall of R&B to R Kelly. More recently, I would attribute it to Beyonce’s ignorant, materialistic, empty lyrics. Yes, I said it. Call me a hater if you like, but every female artist that has come out since Beyonce released her first solo album has been a cheap imitation of her because that’s what our people, mainstream society, and record companies want…Ciara and Rihanna rise to the top of these imitations. Remember, Alicia Keys came out BEFORE Beyonce release her solo album…if the order had been reversed I’m not sure AK would have been as successful. There is nothing wrong with pop/hip-hop like Beyonce, Usher, Ciara, etc…because I like to hear that music with the hot beats too at the club. The problem is when that is the ONLY option. I also agree with the point made earlier that when it comes to black female artists, the light-skinned, long hair traits definitely work in their favor (I love AK but her “pizzazz” comes from this as well). At least Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Mary J Blige, India Arie, Lauryn Hill, and others speak truth in their music. Beyonce is as empty and materialistic as her music…she was raised in a wealthy family in Houston (so what’s up with wanting a “thug” or a “Soldier”??), does not speak about real issues in any of her songs-NOT A SINGLE ONE-for fear of alienating her predominantly white audience, and does not really connect to the black community the way the above artists listed do. She is nothing more than an overtly sexual image, a commodity, and if Jill Scott was singing “Get Me Bodied” no one would give her the time of day b/c she does not have the image that Beyonce has. 20 years from now when her “assets” are sagging I don’t think she’s going to be that person you want to see perform or whose CD you’re going to pop into the player to hear some real soul. She has none. That’s the point of this article. So go ahead and “pat your weave girl” and “drop down low and sweep the floor with it”…cool for the club, not for music that reflects the heart and soul of the genre black people created.

  • Real “R & B” is practically dead. What is being called “soul music” today is hip/hop and watered-down, lightweight and mostly meaningless drivel.

    Today’s “singers” sound as if they were taken right off the street corners, with no training and rushed into the studio. I’ve listened with an open-mind, but have not been moved by much of what I’ve heard.

    Of the young singers who have been brought up in black Baptist churches like in the old days, I DO hear some great voices and a respect and love for the genuine. It’s too bad that Fantasia Barrino has been convinced to sing hip/hop, her voice is just too good to be wasted there. I’m hoping that Jennifer Hudson is wiser and sings the type of music in her soul.

    We still have Aretha, Gladys, Patti, Ashford & Simpson and the great Bettye LaVette, who has made one of the most astonishing “comebacks” in music history. Like other great singers, she sings from the depths of her very being and audiences can relate.

    Beyonce. I do not remember anything she has sung except “Listen.” Most hip/hop music is monotonous with the same boring lyrics and boom de boom beat. The lead singers can hardly be heard because there are so many people singing background (to drown out the fact they can’t sing?) When Beyonce looks back in 25 years at the junk she’s recorded, she won’t find anything that ANYONE will remember or care to cover OR listen to.

    People who weren’t even born know the music of Aretha, Gladys, Four Tops, Temptations, Ray Charles, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, etc. Most of their work is considered standards today and are being performed and covered constantly over the years.

    With young black singers abandoning classic soul, the Europeans are quite aware of this and they have their hearts set on taking over this music. They are not impressed with hip/hop…they want THE REAL DEAL: CLASSIC SOUL.

    Don’t be surprised in twenty years, if there isn’t a crown sitting on Joss Stone’s head and Americans calling HER “The Queen of Soul.” Don’t think it’s too farfetched after what happened in the 1950’s. It was Elvis Presley, not Chuck Berry or Little Richard being proclaimed “King.”

    All that creativity creating gospel, blues, jazz, R & B and soul music, despite unbearable conditions (racism, Jim Crow and segregation), and we’re just GIVING it away. THAT’S YOUR CULTURE YOU ARE JUST HANDING OVER TO ANOTHER GROUP! No other ethnic group would do that. The Scots? The Japanese? The Germans? The Irish? The Italians? Would any of these groups just hand over their culture to some other group?

  • daryl d

    R. Kelly recorded at my cousin’s former studio on Halsted in Chicago. He is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. At the time I met him, I had no idea how big he would become. The guy is a major talent and I still like his recent music. “Ignition” is one of the most fun songs made this decade.

  • I just HAD to comment on this essay.

    As a passionate music lover, one imbued with a profound sense of pride and responsibility for the state of the Black race (as opposed to using the term “community,” which implies the “monolith” perception of Black people, btw), I founded a website called Njs4ever.com, which stands for New Jack Swing 4Ever. The purpose of the website was to highlight what I consider to be the last genre/era of music that positively represented Black people, period.

    In the mid 1980s, a rift was forming musically among Black/urban audiences. The adults listened to plush 80s R&B such as Anita Baker, Freddie Jackson, Luther Vandross, etc. However, the kids were listening to Run DMC, Kool Moe Dee, Doug E. Fresh, and LL Cool J. Essentially, R&B was dead to African-American youth even then.

    However, a crop of artists such as Force MD’s and New Edition were holding up the torch for R&B, even if it leaned toward pop. However, by 1987…some R&B acts who played in bands around the New York Area, namely Keith Sweat and Teddy Riley made a NEW kind of R&B that incorporated the street-edged swagger that drew audiences to the likes of LL Cool J. That genre was called New Jack Swing.

    New Jack Swing in its purest form spawned the church-trained vocals of Aaron Hall (of seminal new jack swing trio Guy), a singer whose vocal stylings obviously paid tribute to Charlie Wilson. New Edition abandoned their bubblegum sound, and released a landmark LP named “Heart Break,” while adding Luther Vandross’ heir apparent at the time to their roster, Johnny Gill.

    As the New Jack Era progressed, positivity in Black culture also progressed. The Era spawned TV shows like “A Different World,” which featured Black people in college(!). Arsenio Hall had his own talk show, and it featured guests of every hue, but from a distinctly African-American perspective. Sammy Davis Jr, Jim Henson, Muhammad Ali, and so many other legends all graced the couch of that show. Spike Lee made trailblazing films during this era including School Daze, Do The Right Thing, Mo’ Better Blues, Jungle Fever, and the epic Malcolm X. I could go on and on….

    I must add that R&B music before hip-hop actually DID appeal to the masses, not just Black people. Without support from all people, acts like Ray Charles, the entire Motown roster, Aretha Franklin, etc, would not have achieved the success that they did. This is an important fact that I’d like to underpin my next couple of paragraphs with.

    New Jack Swing was the last form of R&B to appeal to a broad audience. Bobby Brown didn’t have five consecutive top ten Pop hits (they were all virtually number 1 hits on the R&B charts) from his 1988 Don’t Be Cruel album because his music only appealed to African Americans. Bobby Brown crossed over. So did Johnny Gill, Bell Biv Devoe, Soul II Soul, Keith Sweat, Al B. Sure, and En Vogue. But one cannot deny that they were solidly R&B in musical execution.

    However, in the fall of 1991, Grunge rock stole away the “crossover” fanbase, which meant that that all urban media that used to be buoyed by that cross over support (i.e. The Arsenio Hall Show, New Jack Swing, A Different World), all failed in short order. Then just one year later, Gangsta Rap rendered New Jack Swing passé. New Jack Swing was the earliest form of Hip-Hop influenced R&B, and New Jack Swing was probably 80% R&B, and 20% Hip-Hop. However, after 1992, Hip-Hop/Soul was born, with Hip-Hop garnering a larger share of the creation.

    A song like Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” is almost 100% based on a Hip-Hop sample…Audio Two’s “Top Billin.” Mary J. Blige and her labelmates at the time Jodeci are probably the best examples of the Hip-Hop/Soul genre. Both church trained, these artists made music that incorporated more of a hip-hop aesthetic than their New Jack Swing predecceors.

    What I am arguing is that this death of R&B is something I have lamented as well, however I think you are pointing the finger at the wrong people, and choosing the wrong saviors. While I wholeheartedly respect Jill Scott, Tamia, and Brian Mcknight…I’m going to say what some people might consider blasphemy…but I am sorry. They are BORING.

    Let me defend myself.

    James Brown…entertainer….the man had stage presence. So did Marvin Gaye. He would move across the stage, whoop and scream, and just infuse passion in his performances. Jill Scott on the other hand stands there like a soulful opera singer. Classy, elegant and beautiful, yes. Energetic? Electric? No. Brian McKnight? Same story. Tamia? Definitely same story.

    However, an act like New Edition, who is STILL performing with the polish and class of the Tempations, IS an act that I consider to be solidly R&B….and proof that there is still hope. New Edition carries themselves in a dignified manner…in a manner that is missing in most of today’s music.

    I would posit that Usher, Justin Timberlake, and Beyonce are actually from the New Jack Swing tradition, but they are at the same time of course compromising in some respect to stay current to today’s music trends. But that is only because, as you posited earlier, because urban audiences are clamoring after music that isn’t good for us, instead of supporting music that actually reflects a positive spirit.

    I for one, loved it when Beyonce asked women to “pat their weaves.” What ever happened to having fun? It sounds like a perfect wedding reception get-down. It’s a fun, song…that doesn’t involve shooting, overt sex, or some of the other trappings of mid-90s R&B/Hip-Hop and beyond.

    I think the TRUE savior of R&B should be support of music that recognizes Hip-Hop for what it is…an innovative artform that is here to stay, but also demands musicality and a positive spirit. And that genre…the first, last and only genre to really do so successfully, was New Jack Swing.

    My challenge to anyone reading this, is to visit my website, Njs4ever.com – read the year by year history, and tell me if I’m wrong. Because the history is all there. It was an amazingly powerful cultural force. And it seemed to have been sabotaged by the powers that be in the media, who force fed alternative to the pop masses, and peddled gansta rap filth. And soon….the most dominant cultural representation of Black people in music and pop culture became the thug and the prostitute.

    This Friday in New York City, NJS4E is putting on an event in New York City at Ashford + Simpson’s Sugar Bar. We need for it to be a success if we are to continue spreading our message of positivity and urban elegance and upward mobility in Black music. Johnny Kemp, who performed the hit “Just Got Paid (Friday Night)” will be performing. If you are in the New York area, please check out Njs4ever.com for details…we would love to have you.

    Njs4ever.com considers the New Jack Swing Era to be the turning point in R&B….with 1987 being the Zero AD of Modern R&B. We recognize and treasure the “B.C.” years of R&B, and we also look forward for signs of life in modern R&B. Again, Usher, Justin Timberlake, some Beyonce songs lead the pack in this area. The reason I state those three is because they have mass appeal…and element that you even said yourself in your essay was important.

    New Jack Swing was the last form of mass appeal R&B with a sense of true musicality behind it. Please help support this under-appreciated and under-recognized genre. If you don’t know or remember what it was, VH1’s 4th Annual Hip-Hop Honors (thanks to the input of legendary cultural critic Nelson George) will be recognizing it on national television this year on October 8th.

    My name is Andrew Knyte. My website is called New Jack Swing 4Ever. Please believe that I feel your passion for R&B. But I think pointing the finger at R. Kelly is missing the point. We should really be pointing the finger at ourselves for letting the New Jack Swing Era die the way it did. We need to bring that mindset back. And I’m doing my part. Are you with me?

    – Andrew Knyte
    Njs4ever Networks, LLC

  • B.

    I think its on the labels and the audience to determine what they want to hear. Heck R&B has gone through so many peaks and valleys over the years. To put this on one artist is a little much. I think Kelly has done enough to establish his legacy and if he wants to do vanity projects it’s his perrogative. I would suggest that the industry step up thier game and start putting out some talented artists and the artists have to sell themselves as well. I mean a lot of the talented R&B artists don’t have alot of personality, that “IT” factor. Hate him or love him, R. Kelly has that “IT” factor.

  • Jarrett

    What about Alicia Keys? She puts out quality records…

  • tamika

    For the person that commented on Alicia Keys and Beyonce in comparison to Jill and India, what about the huge success of Lauryn Hill, who was more successful than both Alicia and Beyonce? India didn’t beat out Alicia on the grammy’s but she’s more successful than her contemporaries like Goapele and Amel.

    I would be lying if I said that complexion didn’t play a part in success, but I honestly believe that it’s the jack-of-all-trades quality that Alicia and Beyonce and even Lauryn posses. Their not confined to one type of sound, genre, image, or ability.

  • MizzCash

    By the way, fantastic article, Mr. Perry. I’m recommending it to everybody I know. The beauty of it is that whether you agree or disagree or fall in the middle of the debate, the article is definitely making us think critically about what entertainment is. And to those of you who think we need to “lighten up” because its “just entertainment” remember, that this is what whites told us when they were exploiting us in blackface in the early 20th century…”lighten up, it’s just entertainment.”

  • MizzCash

    “She, unlike India or Jill, has the extra “pizzazz” necessary to make it in this business.”

    I wasn’t even going to comment until I read this statement in regards to Alicia Keys and her success compared to the other two aforementioned artists. It is no secret that this society, and the entertainment industry in particular, showers adoration toward black female artists who come the closest to a Western/European standard of beauty. It is the same reason that Diana Ross was favored over her more talented band mate.(No matter how much they try to say DREAMGIRLS was based on a concoction of several bands of that time, it was based MOSTLY on The Supremes…you can believe that) The same reason that Halle Berry has an Oscar and Angela Bassett does not. So when you say Alicia Keys …”has the extra ‘pizzazz’ to make it in this business” or that Beyonce has that “star quality,” it is not a fair comparison to put upon Jill or India. That pizzazz and star quality are thanks in large part to the fact that they are lighter-skinned black women with long, flowing, more close to Caucasian hair, and “perfect,” just-curvy-enough bodies and this is what America, White AND Black (because we do this to each other more than they do it to us)deems beautiful. We live in an era where the visual image is everything, so its no wonder that Alicia and Beyonce would be more successful than Jill or India, even though ALL FOUR WOMEN are immensely talented in COMPLETELY different ways. As a black woman, I am a fan of all four of those women, and for different reasons, but I am also not blind to the fact that for a voluptuous, size 14+, fro-wearing black woman, or a brown-skinned, loc-donning, more African-facial featured black woman, it is MUCH harder to get the people…even your own people…to love and appreciate you.

  • Angelique

    some of ya’ll are seriously hatin….let me see you make a decent song but neways there is a difference between soul, neo soul, and r&b…..i think r. kelly is a genius when it comes to creativiy and people need to lighten up its just entertainment…well that my opinion….peace!!!!

  • just thinking…

    To say that R&B is “dead” is just a bit too much for me. Yes, there are a lot of artists that are out just because of their looks, but R&B is always evolving. I adore Jill Scott because she sings from her soul, but frankly I don’t want to hear that when I go to the club or when I’m trying to dance in my house. That’s why I also appreciate performers like Beyonce. Of course she’s not the best vocally, but the girl is an entertainer. I think we as black people get stuck in the mindset that our singers have to be like Aretha, Patti, Phyllis, Chaka, or Gladys, but we never take the time to realize that they took something that THEY grew up with and changed it into what we grew up knowing as R&B. Life is about growth and change. Traditional is not always going to be what’s popular so instead of trying to discredit people like Beyonce, R. Kelly, and Usher, why don’t you go think of a way to help bring more vocally talented artists like Jill Scott, Lyfe Jennings, Anthony Hamilton, Goapele, and Musiq Soulchild to the forefront. Go support them instead of being a flat-out hater.

  • A.J.

    I was really feeling this article. Very critical at times and your own opinions are quite clear, but what i admired most was your strong hold on both sides of the issue. I found it extremely daring of you to bring Usher and Beyonce under the microscope. I know this had to rattle a few nerves lol. Even I’ll have to admit that I found myself on the defensive side once or twice throughout, but you really put some of my views to the test. I honestly don’t believe that hip hop or R&B will ever die off, but it has recently, and will continually be undermined and unappreciated simply for the sake of greed. Attaining the all mighty dolla has become the only goal. The consumers never helps to even bring some form of balance back to the genre. Black people’s insatiable thirst for mindless, simple, and naive entertainment will continue to hurt only themselves, while making these white record company owners a hell of a lot richer.

    I don’t even feel like taking the time to argue or debate with half the misguided minds that attempted to debase this article with nothing more than ignorantly biased and emotional support for their favorite singers. So I won’t lol

    Beyonce is one confused lady! Usher has had no lasting impact! They just perfected their pop/R&B blend and we bought it. It’s not a bad thing, it’s only bad when you sit back and try to think of what the happened to the other side. For instance, a white co-worker of mine once asked me to count the number of true R&B female singers that came out after Aliyah died. And sadly, i can honestly tell you that i didn’t have to use my other hand. And what can I say about “The R,” (niggerishly pronounced…”The Are-ruh” LMAO) It speaks for itself. How old is this nigga? I was like five when he use to wear a vest with no under shirt. WTH??? lol. In the words of my good friend Jay West, “We are living in a world, where niggas who can’t read…WRITE BOOKS!” Run for ya lives! lol

    Good Shit Clayton!

  • Phil R

    Problem is, this isn’t a question of “musical” talent, its about entertainment. The majority of Black people today are far more entertained by simple, feel good music with no substance and no longer the deep introspectic messages of the days of struggle. The majority doesn’t have to worry about sitting in the back of the bus, being dragged behind a truck and hung or even dealing with being verbally assaulted for being black on a regular basis. The times have changed. The struggles are still there but its not like it was, the world isn’t as bad as it was for black people in the days of R&B’s beginnings. Otherwise we’d still be singing those “old negro spirituals” and meeting by the waterside. Music is a way to express and communicate with each other, an alternative to speech. So if we’re not speaking the same, acting the same or dressing the same way to express ourselves as black people, why would our music be sending the same message.

    R&B is dying because its becoming obsolete as a medium. The soul is changing, the world is changing and we as black people have to change with it in a way that benefits us all. Booty shaking and posting up on a wall like a thug may not be the best route, but if thats where the majority is headed, hell with them. Who is stopping the discerning Afro-American from being different?

    As far as I’m concerned, my blackness isn’t determined by the music i make/enjoy. So if R.Kelly is taking his flock of rats down by the waterside and drowning them in piss, they must enjoy it so more power to them. I’ll be posted up next to my piano and guitar singing the blues, wailing away with all the new space in the pool. Music is better when its underground anyway.

  • I agree with this article 100%. They problem is no one is making music to make good music. They are too worried about creating hits to get a movie deal, a clothes line deal, or a product deal. Beyonce is not a musician, she is a businesswoman, like Jay Z, 50 cent, and the rest of them. Ms. Knowles has presented herself as a commodity being sold to the highest bidder. B’Day is horrible. The whole album is about product placement and being materialistic. Too many of today’s artists are trying to get on MTV Cribs or be on the Forbes 100 list.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “No matter how talented an artist is, it is their star quality that decides how successful they become.”

    Usually when someone is “Ultra” talented they don’t have to have total focus on the task at hand, i.e; Singing,Dancing,Drumming,playing the Axe.Take for instance Elvis Presley, that man could sing the dictionary and make it sound sweet. He focused on the message & his presentation. So,it’s not pizzaz you are talking about, it’s passion.

    If you are a true musician…

  • I agree with Kellzfan. I’m also a Kellz fan and supporter. How can you say that R. Kelly has pulled the trigger in R&B music? He is R&B’s Prime Mister, and the most influential artists out there. R&B music is NOT dyin’ out. So, don’t put the blame on him (Kellz).

  • @ bgotti … Of Anthony Hamilton’s six singles, only two charted on the Hot 100: “Charlene” (#19) and “Can’t Let Go” (#71). His performance on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts was hardly any better: “Nobody Else” (#63), “Comin’ from Where I’m From” (#60), “Charlene” (#3), “Can’t Let Go” (#13), “Sista Big Bones” (#51) and “Struggle No More” (#32). In addition, his latest CD, “Southern Comfort,” has failed to receive certification of any sort.

  • @ bgotti … Musiq Soulchild’s Peak Performance on the Hot 100 (in reverse chronological order): “Teachme” (#42), “B.U.D.D.Y.” (#36), “Whoknows” (#65), “Forthenight” (#53), “Dontchange” (#17), “Halfcrazy (#16), “Girl Next Door” (#85), “Love” (#24) and “Just Friends” (#31). Over the past seven years, Musiq has found moderate success. His first two CDs went platinum and his third went gold. While his fourth, latest album debuted at #1, he STRUGGLED to get gold certification for the disc. Current sales stand at roughly 500,000 [US]. Unfortunately, for the next go-around, I posit that he will suffer the same fate as Brian McKnight.

  • menoftheage

    ^ I agree with you, radio sucks. My point is why use Beyonce or Usher to strengthen your argument. Yes they can be formulaic, over produced and a few of their singles can be a bit low in quality no matter how fun it is (check on it tonight…). However, can we truly blame them for the downfall of R&B music? It’s much bigger than that. No matter how talented an artist is, it is their star quality that decides how successful they become. The problem with most true current R&B artists is that they lack star quality. Alicia Keys is a true R&B artist and she is one of the best selling and most successful artists this decade. She, unlike India or Jill, has the extra “pizzazz” necessary to make it in this business. She has expanded her appeal to appeal to mainstream audiences yet still stay true to herself and her genre. Besides, these artists have talents in different areas. No one can put on a show or give a better performance than Beyonce, filled with great vocals and eye catching dancing, and Usher is also very impressive. Artists like Jill and Indie are better at allowing their Talent to shine through when they touch on a subject even if they’ve never experienced it firsthand.

  • bgotti

    Didnt Musiq Soulchilds newest CD debut fairly high on the charts? And didnt Usher release “Let it Burn” in between those two records? And what about artists like Anthony Hamilton, Ne-yo, etc. This article doesnt bring up important points that would discredit the idea that R&B is dying. Yes, R&B sales are down, as are ALL sales… hip hop, rock, Pop, etc. R&B isnt dead, people are just finding different avenues, and artists, to enjoy it.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “Talent has nothing to do with it.”

    Sorry, but I disagree… Talent has everything to do with it. Talent shines through when you can touch upon a subject even if you’ve never experienced it firsthand. I was never saying that all I want to hear is music in crisis mode,but,all the crap I ever hear on the radio is either about making love or breaking up. How’s that fun?

  • kellzfan

    You don’t know what you’re talking about. R.Kelly is the most consistent and influential R&B artist of his time. Every artist that comes after him will be inspired by him in their own way. His music will live on in the hearts of fans, and even people who are not fans. R.Kelly is very versatile and he has made music of almost every genre. If you don’t like him that’s fine but don’t make the outrageous statement that R.Kelly aids in the downfall of R&B.

  • menoftheage

    ^ It would be good if there was a balance, but how can you expect these singers to sing about crisis and hardship if they have never had any? Talent has nothing to do with it. Beyonce and Usher want to make music that creates a pleasurable listening experience for listeners. What’s wrong with that? Truth is, they are not strictly even R&B artists. Pop/Hip-hop should be used to describe them before the word R&B is used. Maybe it has to do with taste. Personally, music is a means of escape from some of life’s painful realities. It is also a means of entertainment, the same way movies and sports are. Music can be relaxing, fun, and even has a great message like Marvin Gaye’s “What’s going on,” no matter what, as long as it is high in quality and not stupid like “A bay bay,” I’m down with it.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    “Not every artist has to make serious, fun sucking songs. Why can’t some artists release music that is simply fun…”

    Obviously, you didn’t read the man’s article. R&B’s roots were founded in hardship,passion & the ability to rise above. He is merely stating that today’s R&B artists really only write “Fun” songs with no real message.

    There has to be some sort of balance and if all we do is measure music standards by what sells the most then we won’t have a real outlet for the musicians with talent…Wasn’t it at one time that the R&B/Hip-hop community was professing about having an open mind?

    R&B,Rock,Metal,Jazz,Pop – It affects every genre.
    *BTW* Great Article…

  • menoftheage

    Yes, traditional R&B is dying, but please, don’t bring Beyonce and Usher in it to make them look bad and to be the fault of it all. You cannot blame them for wanting to spread their wings, break new ground, and appeal to mainstream audiences. Especially when the music is as brilliant as “Crazy in Love,” fun and clever as “Yeah” or has an amazing melody like “Irreplaceable.” If you don’t see their influences then you must be blind. People like that kind of music. Not every artist has to make serious, fun sucking songs. Why can’t some artists release music that is simply fun; but know if it isn’t talking about “Real Love,” or “What’s going on” and other sometimes serious shit like that, it isn’t real music. Don’t get me wrong, those are great records, especially the Marvin song. But who says they have to be the model of what music must always sound like? I’m black and I find nothing wrong with the music Usher and Beyonce makes, other than the fact that it can be a bit formulaic and in the case of Usher especially, low in quality, sometimes. Beyonce’s “B’Day” is an album about female empowerment and many critics have picked up on that detail and noted how well she expresses it. She does not do it in the way Jill or Indie would, but she does it in a fun and high quality way. The difference between her music and those artists you mentioned is that she can be lighthearted and fun sometimes. Even when she’s singing a song that has a strong message, the listening pleasure is still in tact. When she’s bad is when she makes cliché ridden shit like “listen,” which is the kind of Whitney Houston sappiness R&B hopefully will never get back to. Music should be about entertainment first and foremost, and if you don’t see the pleasure in a top female pop star telling her ladies to “pat your weave girl,” the you have clearly missed it.