The Death of R&B
Rhythm and Blues is a genre of music that emerged in the 1930’s from the urban hubs of America. Musicians like Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder, and Mariah Carey are some of the most well known R&B artists. R&B was very popular in the 70’s, 80’s and even in the early 2000’s. Despite R&B’s popularity in the last decade, R&B is dying.
R&B is dying for a few reasons. What was the last R&B album you listened to? R&B used to compete heavily with Hip Hop in terms of record sales and radio air time. Today, you can probably count on your hands how many R&B songs you heard on the radio today. Most of what people recognize as R&B is drug and sex filled music such as the Weeknd and PartyNextDoor. But that music is not R&B. And while Chris Brown’s early career could be considered R&B, he has more recently performed Pop. R&B used to be full of love songs and emotional ballads that tugged at your heart strings, now its all about drugs and sex. This could be a sign of changing values, but it is also a sign of the genre’s decline.
Another reason for R&B’s decline is that Hip Hop and R&B have fused into a single genre. It is very hard to distinguish the two sometimes because rappers sing and some singers rap. One artist that does this is Drake. Most of Drake's songs are the emotional filled songs that we used to hear in R&B, but he also raps. He is like a hybrid artist. Another person who musics straddles the realms of Hip Hop and R&B is A Boogie. A Boogie is a new artist from the Bronx, whose rap style is best described as a melodic form of rap. It can be argued that A Boogie has made R&B inspired music and that most music of this style falls in the category of R&B. In the 90’s, Lauren Hill occupied the same space as Drake in terms of fusing Hip Hop and R&B. The only difference is that Drake is the pinnacle of mainstream Rap music; he dominates the airwaves.
Lastly, R&B is dying because the traditional music industry is dying. The traditional music industry as a whole is tanking because albums are not selling. Streaming services such as Spotify and Apple music are taking over the industry and that is where new music is being showcased. Beyonce’s Lemonade and Frank Ocean’s Blonde were all offered on Tidal, a streaming service, before physical albums were sold. When physical albums are sold, very few of them go platinum because most people no longer buy albums. Streaming services are becoming so prominent that they are now being counted as sales.
Personally, I love R&B, so I want it to make a comeback. However, the whole industry is struggling, so it would be hard to save this one piece. The lack of interest in R&B does not help new artists emerge. Artists have to eat too, and nobody wants to make music in a dying genre. The fusion between Hip Hop and R&B does not help either because it's now hard to tell the difference between the two. Hopefully, a new artist can come in and breathe fresh air into this rare genre.