Does R&B Music Still Exist?

R&B music was the lifeblood of some cultures for decades, but things are changing. Is it time for the category to be brought down?

It’s safe to say that R&B has altered its musical implications over the years. As its dynamic evolution from the 1990s to its current musical state in 2021, some music listeners believe that R&B barely exists in the world of modern-day music. 

Other music listeners believe that it is simply extinct. What is the current state of it? Can it ever reach a comeback, or will it continue to generate low listening traction? 

 

Music with Soul

Rhythm and Blues (R&B) is a genre of music originating in the African American communities of the 1940s. 

During the 1950s to 1970s bands usually consisted of piano, guitar, bass, drum, saxophones, and background vocalist. 

The style of music contributed to the sounds of rock and roll, which derived from the essence of soul and gospel music. 

The 1980s was the decade of rhythmic musical interpretation as R&B managed to become a household genre. 

Through its dynamic 80s evolution, much of its music today is greatly influenced by artists such as DeBarge, Boys II Men and Earth, Wind, and Fire. 

These artists were able to capture the essence of modern soul while implementing ballads surrounding love and heartbreak. 

Ten years later, the 1990s gave birth to artists such as Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo and TLC. 

Many musicians believe that this period of the 1990s formulated a foundation and polarised R&B in mainstream culture. 

The decade gave music listeners a musical perspective that shapes the admiration for downtempo slow jams style projects. 

However, Hip Hop became an emerging factor in the sounds of 90’s R&B. Songs such as Real Love by Mary J Blige is a pure example of a vocal melody being stacked on top of booming beats paired with hip hop dance moves. 

The 2000s made way for more funk, disco, and faster tempo melodies to the already established R&B sounds. 

Artists such as Chris Brown and Ciara launched their music careers as the spokespersons for the R&B new wave. 

This wave brought more Hip-Hop collaboration and influences, as the genre reached its highest point of dominating the US music charts. 

Collectively, musicians would argue that this decade was the last time R&B was such a popular genre to the music masses. 

 

The Genre Today

The notion of R&B and its dwindling from the mainstream region is indeed true as many of the genres of artists do not reach the Top 100 as they did in previous years. 

Musicians believe modern-day societies care less about soft, slow music. For years, it has been painted as the sounds of a ‘heavy heart’. 

This notion implies that fans of the genre care for a more emotional and tender approach to music. 

However, artists like SZA remain to be a staple of modern R&B as her album “CTRL” continues to make waves all over the music industry. 

The difference between CTRL and previous R&B albums from other artists over the years, is that ‘love’ has managed to become a secondary topic, as love songs have become an endangered species to the music genre. T

he reality of the genre is that music continues to expand and grow through new generational interpretations. Why would it sound like it did 20 or 30 years ago? 

Neo-Soul has been an efficient offspring of R&B music. The genre was developed by music industry entrepreneur Kedar Massenburg in the late 1990s. 

These efforts were to merge the core soul sound into contemporary R&B. R&B has managed to manoeuvre its ways through many genres such as pop, country, and even techno! 

New Zealand native, Jordan Rakei is a prime example of moulding R&B tradition as they are defined as an ‘Electronic Soul’ artist. 

Additionally, according to TheBluesProject.com, 2019 showed much success for R&B as artist “Summer Walker” sold out three nights in London after debuting the biggest album of any female R&B artist in over 10 years. 

Artists such as Kehlani, Childish Gambino and Ella Mai continue to spread a new sound of R&B on a global level. 

 

An Artist’s Perspective

Growing up, I always admired the sounds of it. As a prominent part of my African American culture, sounds of R&B came as a heavy appreciation in my mind, body, and soul. 

My parents would prominently implement within my household sounds of Usher, John Legend and Toni Braxton and required that I add these sounds into my vocal curriculum. 

It was this notion, that the sounds of my early R&B exposure, influenced my current sound today. 

Regardless of genre, I always tend to add an underline level of R&B for taste and unique purposes. 

The sound has become all my own, as I have evolved the genre within my music. So, is R&B truly faded away from the music world? The answer is no.

The genre has managed to evolve into various sectors and captivate millions without even knowing. 

Music artists must research and become knowledgeable of its history, as it has truly painted the sounds we all know and love today. 


R&B music is always a great live experience, something that we explored in a previous article:

How Live Music Brings People Together

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