written by Carla Bynum
R&B music seemed to reach an all-time high in the 90s when elements of rhythm and blues, pop and hip-hop formed the contemporary R&B category. Artists such as Mariah Carey, Brandy, Monica, Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, Usher, Ginuwine, Maxwell, Joe, D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill were on the top of the charts. Groups were also major in the 90s due in big part to the success of TLC, Jodeci, Dru Hill, Boyz II Men, SWV and Xscape.
Even with the success of R&B music in the 90s and 2000s, many are starting to wonder what happened to the quality of mainstream music nowadays. R&B these days seems to focus more on sex than the theme of love that was prevalent in older R&B songs. For instance, one of the top R&B songs in the 2000s was “Fallin” by then newcomer Alicia Keys. She talked about the ups and downs of a relationship she was in and how she keeps falling in and out of love with this person. Now, “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke is a raunchy yet catchy tune about taking a good girl and allowing her to be the animal that he knows she is down inside. Can you see the difference in the messages each song portrays? That seems to be the norm for the music of the 2010s.
Some believe the days of “real R&B music” are long gone but I have to disagree. While the more mainstream music focuses more on gimmicks and quantity instead of quality, there are still a number of artists who haven’t strayed from the true R&B sound. Artists like Miguel, The Weeknd and Frank Ocean were among the highest praised R&B artists in 2012 for their ability to stay true to themselves as R&B singers without following the Pop & B trend like some of their counterparts (i.e. Usher, Chris Brown, Ciara, Beyonce, etc).
In order for R&B music to make a comeback, focus needs to be placed on actual content rather than appearances. R&B artists like John Legend, Raheem DeVaugn, Ledisi, Anthony Hamilton, Maxwell, Melanie Fiona, Luke James, Jhene Aiko, Elle Varner and Emeli Sande tend to get overlooked in the music world. By listening to the radio, it may seem like R&B is slowly dying but it isn’t. Listeners just have to search past what’s on the airwaves. Instead, they have to search a little harder to find music with meaning. Thank God for the internet.