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Friday, June 3, 2011

The death of R&B

Last week, I was perusing a web forum I administrate on, and interact with the users as well. One who I have become pretty good friends with through the years tossed out the question, and I quote…

“What happened to R&B GROUPS? Maybe there were too many in the 90's (even though they made a hell of a lot of good music). But how do you go from that to virtually none?”

After 46 minutes of work (the kind that pays the bills), 4 minutes of deliberation and about 4 minutes of typing and retyping (from 10:38 am to 11:33am in total), I volleyed back with…

“The general thing became that the ‘group’ idea was kinda lame. Think of the videos and shit, they would all be singing the same song to the same one girl. Was this a plan to run a train on her, or fight over her? Therefore... Groups became solo acts or stopped singing ballads and shit.”

[Phlip note – I snickered uncontrollably at the thought of a group of R&B dudes singing to a chick to run trizz on her too, just for the record]

Well, a few days have past and I have actually been thinking about this… What in the hell DID happen to R&B groups?
And then, I had to think a little further, and ask what in the hell happened to R&B?

Our parents’ R&B had us in situations where one person sang to one person of their interest – and being that this is 2011, I will not assign a gender to the chaser/chasee in this situation – and it was pretty much cut and dry what the deal was. In group settings, the songs were about parties, good times and general life stuff, not necessarily “love songs.”
Sure, there were ballads here and there by a group, but the general populace was that they were fully understandable as NOT the group getting at one girl so much as it was 3 to 5 dudes getting at ALL ladies.

Then came my older sibling/cousin’s generation – all between 7 and 10 years older than me. This puts me at about age 5-6 when, say, New Edition was hot… By now, the landscape was changed by diminishing vocal talent compared to what was before them, so the dancing and aesthetic thing became more important. Not to mention that this was about the time that it became cool to not be able to write songs for yourself either.
[Phlip note – well, I guess I did mention it, but put a pin in that, we’ll come back to it]
Enter music videos…
The combination of the need for a gimmick (usually slick clothes and dancing) and the fact that only one person was writing for all 3-5 group members, the video would generally have all members singing the same song to the same person.
Look back up there to my response to the question and tell me what that feels like.

I am thinking that somewhere along the line, someone told them how crazy/borderline zesty this came across, because later groups focused more on the “human like you” aesthetic, parties and bullshit, having a good time, etc… (think Jodeci for example).
From there, and since then, the idea of an R&B GROUP has been dead in the water. No one has bothered in several years, and now that R&B has become so raunchy in general, smart money says to go ahead and bet on it remaining that way.

I mean, every song is about fuckin’.
Yes, I mean very specifically “fuckin’,” as opposed to “having sex” or “making love.”
If we were to ever to have a group of these tattooed R&B wannabe thugs try to make a ballad with their current choice of subject matter, it would surely HAVE to involve running a train on the object of their affection (or each other, and I JUST ate, so I would rather not think about that).

Another friend answered that “they became a platform for the launching of a solo career,” and I don’t terribly know that I disagree with that assessment either.
I mean, part of the draw to certain arenas of our entertainment requires a certain level of relative experience, or at least believability. And I just can’t say I can relate to or believe – or trust the motives – of 5 dudes breathing all heavy while singing the same song to (presumably) one chick. Documentaries (think “I Survived”) on TruTV start like that.

And here, we discuss and argue the death of hip-hop… Or the self-righteous among us continue to offer the inaccurate “rap is dead, hip-hop is alive.” More on that some other time, though.
We SHOULD be discussing the untimely and very apparently violent murder of R&B. No longer is it necessary to be classy and discrete about stating your desires to bed a young lady in a manner that doesn’t make her feel like a slore even if she is being made out to be one, you are now fine to be as nasty and perverted as possible.
And feature a Nikki Minaj verse, otherwise they won’t put you on the radio.

Oh well, it was a good run, I guess… R.I.P. R&B Groups!
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