4 Reasons Why R&B Music Is Dying
"Why don't they make music like this anymore?"
Today’s R&B music is lying in critical condition. If you research any true R&B song between the 60s and 80s on Youtube, you will read many comments of individuals lamenting on how “they don’t make music like that anymore.” What has happen in the last 20 years to cause many to proclaim R&B music as “dead” or “dying”? Here are 4 reasons why R&B music is in the process of dying out:
1. Computerized Production- Between the 60s and 80s, the R&B genre had a plethora of bands: Earth, Wind and Fire, Sly and the Family Stone, Rose Royce, Parliament, Funkadelic and Kool and the Gang just to name a few. All of these acts made their own music with live instruments. There were some bands that did use computer synthesizers, but even then they also incorporated live instruments. The last true band in R&B history was the 90s band Mint Condition. Since then, virtually all instruments played on a given album these days are digitized. While some pop acts are also using digitized instrumentation, there are more pop acts using live instruments today than there are R&B acts. There are also more pop bands these days than R&B bands. R&B bands are virtually dead in mainstream music.
2. Too Much Focus on Physical Attributes and Not Talent-Again, looking at most R&B acts between the 60s and 80s, much of them would not be considered “lookers” today. But the industry then was focused mainly on the quality of the music, as that was the selling point. Today, there are too many R&B artists that are eye candy with not much talent or average talent, and the truly talented artists are not signed or promoted because of the way they look. A perfect example of this was back in the 90s with a heavy set Martha Wash singing on C and C’s Music Factory song “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) being replaced by a slender woman lip synching her part in the music video.
3. Producer Focused-Now there were well known R&B producers through the 60s and 80s like Norman Whitfield, Quincy Jones, Leon Sylver, Jam and Lewis, L.a. and Babyface and Teddy Riley. But somewhere in the late 80s and early 90s, R&B began to focus a lot of attention on the producers. Artists wanted to work with the “in” producer at the time. The problem with that was everyone songs started sounding the same. A certain producer would have a particular signature style, but everyone he worked with would have that same sounding style, and it became more of a producer’s song than it was an artist’s song. Earth, Wind and Fire songs sound like Earth, Wind and Fire songs. They did not sound like Kool in the Gang songs. They had there own styles that could not be duplicated by anyone but them because they only worked with their own team. With producers working with everyone they can, R&B music started sounding the same from one act to the other.
4. Too Much Sex-While there were sexual content in R&B music between the 60s and 80s, There weren’t as many as there are in R&B music today. Earth, Wind and Fire often sung songs with positive messages as well as Stevie Wonder, and while many know Marvin Gaye for “Sexual Healing”, he also devoted an entire album to social issue with “What’s Going On”. The O’ Jays sung about the love of money and also sung a song called “Brandy” about a missing dog. There were love songs, but they spoke on the many aspects of love. Today’s R&B music is mostly laden with sexual themes that are too suggestive for young ones to listen to. And while sex sells, there’s an over-saturation of it that’s causing R&B music to lose its substance.
Whether or not R&B music can be revived and become the force it once was remains to be seen. Artists as well as music producers maybe concern about making money, but someone has to make a stand for quality over quantity (making hits) and take hold of a once powerful genre that’s on the verge of dying.