I recently read a statement Dream made stating that, “black people are no longer capable of making soulful records anymore. We love Adele singing it, but Beyonce singing it? No.” At first read I 100% agreed..and then I started thinking.
The African American version of Rhythm and Blues is evolving. Think about what your favorite R&B artist first sounded like when they came out - I’ll use Trey Songz for example. Trey’s debut album, Gotta Make It, had actual soulful songs on it. Songs that made you two-step - like ‘Coming for You.’ What type of songs is Trey making today? (Is Trey even still making music? I seriously can’t keep up…). Another example -Mary J. Blige. She’s the Queen of Soul…but what is she putting out today in order to keep up with this generation’s version of R&B music? ‘Mr. Wrong’ featuring Drake (rapper) .. ‘Why’ featuring Rick Ross (rapper).
Now, will I say that black people are “no longer capable of making soulful records anymore?” No. I would change the statement to “soulful records aren’t a hot commodity anymore.” The younger generation is the generation that is still purchasing albums and concert tickets these days. They’re a faster pace generation who are just looking for a good time, a dance record, club banger or the next best pop song. Supply and demand - that’s why Rihanna is hot right now. Rihanna wouldn’t be able to precisely execute a soulful song. Why? Because she can’t sing in real life (listen to any of her slower songs performed…). Now think of the actual R&B soul singers that are out and think of their record sales - Monica. Chrisette Michele. Corinne Bailey Rae. R. Kelly (Not including Chocolate Factory, TP.3 Reloaded or Double Up…or Best of Both Worlds). Solange.
Just a caveat - Sol-Angel’s and the Hadley Street Dreams got more play than Beyonce’s BDay…I absolutely loved Solange’s voice through the entire CD!
Actual R&B Soul artists aren’t getting paid attention to because that is not what is ‘in’ in the moment. This moment is about YOLO. Is about flashy cars. Is about big booty hoes. Is about who’s a boss. Who sings about love anymore? Heartbreak? A leading lady, or a leading man in their lives? Unless it’s Drake…it’s nobody.
Adele is succeeding because American’s like ‘the next new thing.’ To them, this 21/22 year old girl from across the ocean is the next fad to jump on to. Don’t get me wrong - I love Adele. I have both 19 and 21. But she’s an American fad. Just like Amy Winehouse was an American fad. Or Duffy. We’ll forget about her until the next white soulful singer comes across…because we like to see something different. Something out of the norm. Rhythm and Blues is evolving. Black R&B artists have to keep up, while we’re willing to accept any white soul artist (Robin Thicke) that comes through the door. So the question isn’t can Beyonce sing an Adele song and we love it but should be WHY can’t Beyonce or Corinne or Chrisette, or any other R&B artist not trying to sell out, sing an Adele song and it be just as good as a hit?