For years, we’ve been asking (or have been asked), “what happened to real R&B?”
The R&B prior to 2010 (roughly) was powered by love, happiness and the beautiful struggles in between. Since we’ve entered the new millennium and especially since cracking into the second decade, the music has been…different.
Recently, the more popular R&B acts are either leaning more towards pop or just over sexualized content. We all know that sensualism has been a part of the fabric of rhythm and blues but there’s little to no mystery behind the lyrics. Now most of the music on the radio is in your face with “get you drunk, take you home, and lay you down” tunes.
But enough about that, we know what we’ve heard. Let’s talk about the new wave. It’s been a refreshing experience to hear a new crew of singers talking about love, life, pain and more in the last year.
Mind you, artists like D’Angelo, Musiq Soulchild, Mary J. Blige and others have been releasing music but haven’t been in the spotlight. The younger crop have been steadily picking up steam to share the airwaves and newer market of streaming with established R&B acts.
If you’re looking for more than sex and party records then you will definitely enjoy the likes of the list below.
R&B’s New School: Free 6LACK (6LACK), CTRL (SZA), American Teen (Khalid), Ready (Ella Mai), H.E.R. Vol. 1 & 2 (H.E.R.), Fin (Syd), Outer Limits (India Shawn) and The Two of Us (Chloe & Halle).
Of course this isn’t every great R&B project out but it illustrates the point that many of us are looking to address when asking about the current state of R&B. What we look for is music that will touch us; something that we can feel. These projects have been growing favorites across the internet because listeners can relate to the music and reliability is important.
Free 6LACK, one of the more notable projects on that list is a great example of that. When 6LACK seemingly dropped out of the sky (for many) with “Bless Me”, “PRBLMS” and “Ex Calling”, LVRN struck gold. Fans old and new instantly gravitated to the soothing sounds of an East Atlanta-native living with the peace of a lover (“Bless Me”) and the stress of an ex (“PRBLMS” & “Ex Calling”). SZA’s CTRL hit the streets a few weeks ago and has already seemed to have a similar impact with her 14 tracks that could easily be “the life & times of every girl in her 20s”.
Khalid’s debut was great, H.E.R. is steadily budding and it’s clear that their potential along with others in the group and those that may not have been named are on their way.
True enough we can all relate to the feelings of sexual desire and partying all night but with rap artists covering that arena, we need less of that from R&B acts to impose a balance. The artists above address teenage love, sensuality, self exploration, struggles of manhood/womanhood, coming of age tales and more.
So next time someone asks “what happened to R&B?” direct them to the new class of crooners. The music is definitely out there, it just may take a little effort to find it. There’s always a diamond in the rough.