R&B music is not dead. The genre does not need saving. The genre needs support. Real support. If I hear or read one more statement from some of these mainstream R&B Artists (insert Tyrese here) saying that they are restoring, saving, or rescuing the genre from the dead, I’m going to run down Lake Shore Drive in Chicago yelling “Wake UP!” (Laurence Fishburne School Daze voice). The only way to “save” R&B is to go to the consumers’ house, knock on their door and ask them to purchase more CD’s. Or, you can go to the offices of radio stations, record labels or television networks and beg them to play, support or respect all R&B Artists, not just a select few. Or, as an artist, you can tweet, post and support your peers’ albums when they come out. Other than those specific things, you are not restoring anything. You are simply going on a useless tirade and promotional venture and appearing to be clueless about the industry.
R&B music is alive. It’s vibrant. There are many distinct voices, a lot of strong music and thousands of exhilarating live shows given to the public on an annual basis. From music festivals to small venues, the music is there for consumption. There are more and more albums dropping every year with good to excellent material. There’s something for every consumer. There is something for every radio station format. There is diversity and there were hit records placed on every R&B album that dropped this year. The sound can’t be denied. From Fantasia to Syleena Johnson, major record label or independent, R&B is an influential force.
The truth is that in 2015 we’ve seen some impressive new talent such as Leon Bridges and more seasoned artists such as Lalah Hathaway, Raheem DeVaughn, Charlie Wilson and Jill Scott deliver music that spoke to your soul. From Royalty, Reality Show to The Buffet, R&B has been given a diverse perspective of musical choices, good and bad, for the consumer to sift through. The problem is the consumer is just not sifting quickly enough to make a strong impact on sales and the industry is not assisting with the process. R&B is still a boutique genre that needs nurturing, development and respect.
Sales are sluggish. Who cares? At this point, R&B artists need to step up to the plate and change their perspective on promotion, social media usage, how the consumer receives their music, support of other artists and get out and perform. Tour, Tour, Tour! Big venues are nice but you can still build a solid base performing at a Highline Ballroom in NYC or a Yoshi’s in Oakland. It is up to the artists to keep this genre thriving. They have to stop looking for others to solve their problems and do the work themselves.
More R&B artists need to support each other. Real support means touring together, forming alliances, dropping the ego and competitive spirit and rising up together. This means so-called mainstream R&B artists that get those major looks at radio or television need to reach out and down; to uplift someone else. Hip Hop gets it! Rap artists support each other. They are the perfect example of combining resources, forming alliances and winning together.
So, here’s the ugly truth. The genre doesn’t need saving; the artists’ mentality does.
Dr. Syleecia Thompson
Facebook: Dr. Syleecia Thompson