2014 has been an interesting year for the Soul & R&B genre, I remember a conversation with my mate Jigs (of the once known Choice FM who then left when it was re-branded to Capital Xtra, he then joined Mi-Soul and then returned to Capital Xtra), it was half-time whilst we were watching Arsenal losing in the Champions League. He informed me of his decision and at first I was really shocked, then explained the show he would be doing and reasoning for returning, which I then totally agreed with.
You see, Jigs is just as passionate as me about quality and credible music and we share a belief of musical integrity. Soul and R&B hasn't gone away, in fact, some fantastic work has come to light in 2014 from veterans Omar, John Legend, Kindred, Joe, Syleena Johnson, Marsha Ambrious, Incognito, Jarrod Lawson, Eric Benet, Ledisi, Noel Gourdin, Jennifer Hudson; and the unearthing of new talents Amy Steele, Kwabs, August Alsina, MNEK, Hayley Cassidy, Jacob Banks, Ed Thomas to name but MANY MANY!!!
The main problem in my eyes is this, aside from the Pirate/Internet Stations/Blogs plodding along and keeping us informed of the "authentic" sound, there are now limited taste makers championing in the mainstream. From PR Companies to Record Labels to Radio Stations. Over the years 1Xtra, Radio 1, Kiss FM have replaced their dedicated R&B & Soul shows in favor of other genre's who have enjoyed chart success based on sampling or use of Soul & R&B vocalists Duke Dumont (Whitney Houston), Second City (Toni Braxton), Waze & Odyssey (R Kelly), Avicii (Aloe Black), Disclosure (Mary J Blige). So many once credible DJ's have flocked like flies to embrace this sound which is there right to do so, but I ask myself, why am I not hearing Soulful House tracks with original writing and production with an ounce of true musicianship on mainstream radio (won't dwell on this as it will just turn into a rant steering us off course and another argument). Why can't they just play the song in its original form instead of sped up, chipmunk sounding vocals over 130pm 4x4 drum patterns. Believe it or not, there once was a time you could play a 2hr DJ set of R&B and Soul and there are some who still do.
Why are we continually pumping out "bitches & hoes" type R&B, where is the balance of a few well written, meaningful, constructive love songs? Even though I like to get a bit ratchet and enjoy the odd twerking record, some searching questions need to be addressed...Why haven't we progressed in a time where Social Media has totally revolutionized the way we consume music, Where has the gut instinct and common sense gone with our station music programmers? What happened to the journalists ignoring the trollop and writing about the good? Where are the once Soul & R&B DJ's who would fight for quality music over a pay check? Where is the competition to Sam Smith & Ed Sheeran who are currently heralded as the flagship standards for R&B and Soul, the ironic thing is the latter of the two was championed and hailed by artists of the UK r&B, grime and hip hop scene...and the funny thing is, I didn't see any of them invited as support on his recent tour or feature on even a remix of his hits. (Just an observation, Not a Dig!).
Well, lets get to the crunch and give you the answer from my perspective (Disclaimer: some might find what they are about to read offensive, skip to the credits if you can't handle my truth). Is Soul & R&B Dead?...NOPE...didn't think I would leave it there did you?
The progress of good quality R&B and Soul is being suppressed, Last week I had a conversation with a music plugger and long time industry friend on the 19th Hole after a round of Golf at Silvermere who explained to me that when his company present music of this kind to mainstream Radio Stations, TV and Press they tend to dismiss it as too specialist, I could relate to this is, its something I experienced many years ago, that is until a light bulb came on in my head. What does this say about how some of the people making these decisions think of US/YOU the consumer? Is out intelligence so below par that we can't stomach or don't want to listen or hear quality R&B and Soul aside from misogynistic tracks? If this be the case, we really have problems, and the Genre is in danger of losing its identity at the hands of those who maybe have other agendas than the music at heart or quite frankly don't give a damn. We all have mortgages to pay & kids to feed.
I remember seeing an episode of the game show Celebrity Pointless with one of the contestants BBC 1Xtra DJ Sarah Jane Crawford a well educated and articulate presenter I like, I felt proud seeing her on my TV at prime time but felt upset when she was asked by Host Alexander Armstrong who were the acts to look out for, I was shocked to hear her response being "I listen to Joni Mitchell" (who has some good music), I understand why she said it, taking into consideration the possible audience of the show, a great way to endear and gain acceptance, but felt disappointed (no pun intended) that on such a stage there was no mention of artists her station was set up to provide a platform for. Luckily, Huw Stephens and Trevor Nelson who were also on the show came correct. And here in lies the problem, the stagnation of quality R&B and Soul is being suppressed to the point, some of the people who have a key to the masses and spread the Good Gospel aren't doing so, now the agents and big bucks are rolling why would you care about a simple thing of integrity, after all, if you don't play ball, there is another quite willing to take up the mantel. A bit like that old friend who makes it big and ignores you in the street now they are in the company of a more socially elite set of friends and now regard you as a nobody.
Want to hear Soul and R&B still exists...checkout my Soul Hedonism Show on TSOL Radio every Monday & Tuesday at 3pm GMT...find us on Tune In or online at www.tsolradio.com or or live Saturday Nights at The Soulful Cellar, Croydon!
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