10 August 2009

All Style, No Substance.

Been a hectic couple of weeks here in the hospital, so I haven't had as much time to write as I'd like. We're wrapping up the 8-week summer semester, and I just got out of the thick of finals so my dining table is a disaster zone of open textbooks, used-up highlighters, printed-out PowerPoint presentations and assorted looseleaf pages adorned with my chicken scratch. Thankfully, it's tapered off into a more manageable workload. For a few days, anyway.

Unsurprisingly, here's another music post.

On "We Run Things (It's Like Dat)", The Bush Babees lamented that because "nowadays, 'cause rap pays/we got a million rappers and a thousand DJs" flooding the industry. This line is just as relevant now in 2009 as when it first dropped waaaay back in 1994. Now that we're living in the age where anyone with a webcam, a USB microphone and a bootleg copy of ProTools can become a million-view YouTube star, there's just so much *more* music out there. Meaning we have so much more crap to wade through to get the good stuff. And by "good stuff" I'm referring to actual songs and not just a catchy hook that sounds good when you're on your fifth Patron shot at the bar. I'm not just talking about rap music (complaining about that would require another week's worth of posts), but R&B as well.

I've had R&B in the back of my mind lately, and mentioned before that I used to be an avid R&B fan a few years back. My collection spanned both the usual suspects (Jodeci, Aaliyah, Jade, Silk, En Vogue, Montell Jordan, Shai, Blackstreet, etc.) and some flash-in-the-pan artists, some of whom managed to release only one single before fading into label-limbo obscurity. This was back in the day when I bought damn near every rap and R&B maxi-single that came out (both for the remixes and instrumentals), and while there was some that didn't quite catch my ear, I thought that the vast majority of music that I bought was well-written and performed -- and when I liked it enough to cop the album, many of the songs on them reflected talent. Which made me a happy music consumer.

I really don't know if I can say that now though. Yes, good R&B still exists. The art of song-writing (and not just hook-writing) is alive and well. Thriving even, with Maxwell's new release, Alicia Keys' albums, much of John Legend's catalog and the phenomenon that is Foreign Exchange. I'm almost salivating with anticipation over the new Sade disc that's supposedly due in November. But the rare high-quality offerings just seem overwhelmed by a towering craptastic inferno.

Look. I have nothing against The-Dream's hustle, but if I hear him -- or one of his many imitators -- adlib "eh, eh" one more time I'm swearing off R&B altogether ("Radio Killa?" Come on, B). And I'm sorry, but a chorus of male voices chanting "eyyyyyyyyyyy" has no place in R&B. This genre seems to have stagnated, stuck on painfully stale subject matter that's been rehashed over and over. And over. So basically you get:
  • the club banger (featuring a verse from Lil Wayne that has nothing to do with anything the song talks about)
  • the sex song (WTF is a "girl you know I-I-I"?! FINISH YOUR DAMN SENTENCE)
  • the "I cheated on you so please forgive me" song
  • the "you cheated on me so GTFO"/male-bashing song (aka every other Beyonce joint)
  • the "I'm an R&B singer but I'm still a thug" song (anyone who uses the term "thug love" will get looked at sideways)
Miss me with this. Will it really hurt that much if y'all even just try to push the envelope? Where's this decade's What's Going On? Oh yeah, right ... you and I both know the majors wouldn't even come close to touching that kind of project.

Don't get me wrong. I admit to listening to and enjoying songs that fall into every one of the categories in that list. But it doesn't seem like there's any more to it than that. Granted, a ton of the R&B released currently belongs squarely in the "pop" section of whatever big-box retail stores that still dares to sell music, but the genre is so watered down as a result that it's turned me off to 90% of what's out. It's all style, no substance.

It's no wonder I'm listening to SomaFM so much nowadays. Actually, now would be a good time to put Love Deluxe back on rotation.

And y'all need to start listening to some Goapele.

Eh, eh.

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