Every day, R&B music lovers around the world have to ask themselves what has become of our beloved genre of music. An entire generation of R&B music lovers can easily recall the days when the Temptations, Supremes and Four Tops spread the Motown sound from one end of the world to the other. Another generation of R&B music lovers can sing along with Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and Marvin Gaye and try in vain to match their genius note-for-note. Let’s not forget the generation who grew up claiming they were conceived by parents who were being serenaded by the smooth voices of Barry White, Isaac Hayes and Luther Vandross. If the mere mention of any of these icons of soul music makes you long for the good old days, then you probably wonder why many of today’s R&B singers and groups pale in comparison to the all-time greats of the past.
What happened to our beloved R&B music? There are many potential reasons many music fans say the quality of today’s R&B does not match the excellent music produced by the legends of soul music. However, a close examination of this widespread belief points directly at three factors that may solve this mystery once and for all.
Point one: Many of today’s R&B singers rely on machines and technology to produce “rhythm and blues.” Seriously, no drum machine or electronic keyboard can match a group of dedicated musicians who have perfected the craft of “one band, one sound.” Our music today lacks this component, so we are left wondering why the songs don’t move us like they used to back-in-the-day. Artists should bring back true musicians who play their own instruments to recreate the magical sounds of traditional R&B music.
Point two: Many of today’s R&B artists don’t sing with passion and feeling, also known as singing with soul. Where is the love in our music today? Song lyrics lack the imagination of the R&B jams of the past. Teddy Pendergrass could explain when, where, why and how he loves his lady all in the same song. On top of that, there was enough sex appeal and passion in his music to make you say: yes, I can definitely relate and remember when… In comparison, today’s music leaves very little to the imagination, so we “don’t see nothin’ wrong with a little bump-n-grind.”
Point three: Many of today’s R&B performers can’t carry a tune from one side of a recording studio to the other. While there are some very nice voices out there today, line them up against the legends of R&B music and today’s artists don’t stand a chance. Would you take Beyonce’s voice over Patti LaBelle’s? How about Usher on the same stage as Luther Vandross? Play a Rihanna tune then follow it up with a Phyllis Hyman classic. The vast differences in the voice qualities of R&B artists now and then are very easy to hear and distinguish.
So the next time you settle in and listen to your favorite radio station’s broadcast of the Quiet Storm, don’t stop and wonder to yourself about what happened to our beloved R&B music. Don’t say to your significant other, why don’t they make R&B songs like they used to? Instead, consider that many of today’s R&B singers are a collection of studio artists with crude lyrics and voices that can only produce a hit by today’s music standards. Then get out your classics and relive a time when R&B music moved your soul and stirred your deepest feelings and emotions.