Women Will Save R&B

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    Beyonce Mariah Carey Brandy Alicia Keys TheLavaLizard
    Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Brandy and Alicia Keys.

    During the last four years, the genre of R&B music has rapidly lost its footing as a dominant art form of popular culture and has been marginalised on the charts. Yet, as critics and fans look to men, such as Chris Brown, Usher and Trey Songz, to provide an answer to this crisis, the salvation of the R&B movement could only truly be achieved by women.

    Homophobia is the primary policing agent of gender used to maintain the hegemonic standards of masculinity in patriarchal societies. It affects both gay and heterosexual men as it is rooted in misogyny – a hatred of femininity – and used a tool to denounce feminine characteristics and preserve the dominance of masculinity. In other words, homophobia forces men to act like men and not women or else they won’t be regarded as real men.

    The effects of homophobia encourages men to constantly survey their behaviour to ensure that they are matching the dominant gender ideals of masculinity. This ubiquitous self-observance prevents men from expressing their true emotions and ideas because they risk being victimised by other men and even women, who are unknowingly reinforcing the subordinate position of femininity in patriarchal societies. Have you ever considered how silly women sound when they call a man a “bitch” because he is considered feminine?

    This fear of homophobia among men is termed as homophobiaphobia and it breeds overt expressions of masculinity that relate to the fragile male ego. Simply, men, particularly those of social minority groups, defend themselves from homophobia via hypermasculinity. That’s why Trey Songz and several other black R&B artists feel compelled to remind us of their sexual conquests.

    So, what on sweet Mother Earth does all this fancy language have to do with women saving R&B? Well, think about it. If men are restricted by homophobia then how could they create the innovative material needed to boost the dying genre?

    In the music industry, men and women are marketed in completely different ways, especially in the Urban fields. Men are rarely depicted in their music videos without a bevy of girls, money and other symbols of masculine power that emphasise their position as dominant individuals. Women, on the other hand, have more freedom for self-expression.

    From their experiments with fashion to the dramatic uses of their vocal ranges, women are allowed to explore the limits of their artistry with few serious consequences. Indeed, with the exception of ageism affecting female artists over the age of 40 years and the limiting of overt expressions of their sexualities, women are given the liberty to do many things that men cannot.

    Beyonce wore Jay-Z’s clothes in her ‘Upgrade U’ video but could you imagine the reaction of audiences if the roles were reversed and he dressed in her butt pads?

    Women could even dress in fashions usually tailored for men without causing serious scandal! For instance, Beyonce wore Jay-Z’s clothes in her ‘Upgrade U’ video but could you imagine the reaction of audiences if the roles were reversed and he dressed in her butt pads?

    What this long-winded discussion really reflects is the fact that while men are constrained by homophobia, women have ample opportunity to think outside the box and develop new approaches for the rebranding of R&B.

    We can’t overlook the efforts of all men, though. Concerning ‘Climax’, Usher created an innovative, contemporary hit that bridged the divide between Dance and R&B. However, what did he do for his followup single, ‘Let Me See’? He retreated to the expected hypermasculine model of men in Urban music:

    “She say she want to take her skirt off. Be my guest. I decided to take my shirt off and show my chest so you know what’s next. Working intermissions, switching positions; we so explicit…”

    Still, all of this talk would be worthless if women refuse to understand their unspoken power as artists. Indeed, unlike Monica and Ashanti who refuse to expand their sounds and have been creating redundant material dated to 2003 when they were still relevant, the women of R&B need to realise their true value.

    Of course, only established women in the industry with large fanbases have the ability to influence a change in the current popular culture trends. Hence, it would take artists on the level of Beyonce, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys to affect this mini-revolution.

    Beyonce did try to inveigle a renewed interest in R&B with her ‘4’ album but thanks to her terrible singles, poor management and unimaginative samples, the project failed to make a major impact. Read my full thoughts about that disaster here!

    Brandy is another act who has the chance to inspire change in R&B but it is unclear whether her label is in a position to promote her effectively. Of course, she definitely has the skill to make it happen but talent alone is not enough to sell records. If you doubt me then ask Melanie Fiona.

    All in all, after all these words and the cursing that some of you probably uttered while reading this article – hey Beyonce fans! – the key point is that women are in a unique position to revive the R&B genre in a way that men cannot. Unaffected by similar hindrances stemming from homophobia, women   could go beyond the box in search of answers that fans of R&B so desperately need.

    Watch Ashanti’s ‘Only U’ video below and remember the days when R&B music was exciting:

    Thoughts?

    • ihatemyles

      i feel like ashanti could def do it becus she has a very versatile voice…i wish she really would expand her sound…!!

    • olly_tei

      Funnily enough i was just thinking about male artist and how they’re portrayed in videos and the nature of their music. I agree women will be the saving grace for the genre, but i’m hoping we see a male artist who’s just as creatively expressive in their visuals and live performances/set design/costumes as the women of the of the industry are.

    • Girrrl

      I just downloaded this song and a few others from Ashanti’s Concrete Rose album! Her Declaration album had some gems too (yeah I bought it!) Great minds…

      I 100% agree with the statement that women will be the ones to revive R&B if it can be revived. There are great R&B male singers out ie Eric Benet, Maxwell, Drake but they don’t get the attention needed to start the R&B resurgence. The Women of R&B need to expand their subject matter (how many songs can there be about being in love, being hurt/betrayed, and looking good at the club?) and make it sound interesting ie. Brandy’s Put It Down vs. Monica’s Until It’s Gone. On another note, why is Melanie Fiona flopping? That album is the bomb!

    • olly_tei

      An male RnB artist who treats their male and females fans the same. As well as perform shows, which are more then mere strip shows for teenage girls.

    • Ariana

      Wow! Such an interesting article, Trent! I see why your haters despise you so much: most of them cannot understand such eloquent language, use of proper grammar, development of ideas & critical thinking 🙂
      I agree, most male singers are afraid to experiment with R&B, prejudices & lack of creativity are the main reasons.

      Odds are in favor of Beyoncé, Mariah and now Brandy. I think they’re the most talented & the ones who can bring something different to the table. Most of us love Bran’s new single and I’m rooting for Mariah since she’s a wonderful singer/songwriter/producer -the whole damn package! Beyoncé could have done wonders if she had promoted cleverly “4” but she’s coming back and I assume she’s learned her lesson.

      I’m really looking forward to hearing new material from all these women, even Christina Aguilera may surprise us if she opts to take the R&B route again.
      We shall see.

    • Sasha Aguilera

      I agree with just about everything you said in the article, but let me get you together real quick.

      But didn’t you praise 4 when it leaked?

      I’ve been following since your days on the other blog. I find it quite funny how you will praise something one minute than bash it if it underperforms. I still remember when Christina was getting ready to release Bionic you would praise her to the high heavens then when it flopped you had a joke every post you made about her. (BTW, that butt pad joke u made was not funny and very ‘unimaginable’.)

      And when Run the World first leaked you said you loved it and it had you dancing, but after it flopped you called it “horrendous”.

      Make your mind up. But, as a Mariah Carey stan all you really care about is numbers.

    • Very deep aproach. I also think female R&B artists have some problems like Industry wanting them to go Pop (Beyonce) to be sold in the worldwide market and the need to simplify their voices and lyrics to be Club/dance-friendly

    • DOMOdotSCORE

      Intriguing post, Trent. I totally see your point. I don’t really have an argument against it. It’s hard out here for a male singer, their hypermasculinity ignites the same effect as their sensitivity: they are regarded as gay or “suspect” either way. What is a man to do when he’s locked in such a Catch 22?

      My only question is: If the women were to bring R&B back on top, do you think that would make the men step up to the plate?

      Random yet related: Ashanti needs to work with Channel 7 (formally known as Aureilus 7) again, he always brought the best out of her. Monica’s best songs in these last few years were the ones she crafted with Missy.

    • Magic

      I agree that it will be a woman that will bring R&B back to the top of the charts. I also agree that homophobia is the main reason why male R&B artists are not as creative as female artists. However, let’s not act like the same people that complain about male R&B artists lack of creativity; are not the same ones that make jokes about them being gay. If people would stop judging and assuming that every male R&B artist is gay. I mean think about it, Usher, Ne-Yo, Miguel, Maxwell ect… have all been accused of being gay because of the way they sing or dress.
      PS: In this day and time men are called gay just for liking artists such as Brandy, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, etc…

    • theman4u

      Artist like Miquel and Maxwell and even Trey songs do possess the power to help bring the genre back but the music has to be good, Miquel had the best r&b album out last year with 4 right behind it. Usher, Mariah and Beyonce will be whats hurting R&B because everyone of them will be searching for crossover (dance) hits on their next cd’s. Maxwell and Sade has proven that if you make good r&b music the audience will respond, R Kelley is doing solid business and so is Kem because they are making real music, the same reason why Alecia Keys has never flopped because the music is consistently good. When Monica was making good music she had the sales to show for it, this new cd is horrible and thats why its flopping, same with Keyshia Cole’s last cd, same with Mariah’s.

    • Girrrl

      @DOMOdotSCORE

      Ooh I agree about Ashanti working with 7 Aurelius because Can’t Leave You Alone is still the jam!

    • Girrrl

      *Don’t Leave Me Alone is what I meant.

    • LegallySane

      I’mma need LeToya Luckett back on the scene…she is so underrated!!!!! “Lady Love” was R&B at its best..her third album will be bananas!! Hopefully Crapitol will promote it this time

    • Kingofhearts

      YAASS ASHANTI WORKING WITH 7 AURELIUS WOULD DEFINITELY BE AMAZING…HER DEBUT ALBUM WAS FLAWLESS AND HER WRITING SKILLS ARE AMAZING…AND I COSIGN XTINA GOING THE R&B ROUTE

    • Theman

      Well Mariah,Usher & Beyonce along with Alicia are crossover artists. They caterto many different audiences which is a great thing. You can’t just say that they are gonna do a dance song just because. Thats absurd. But them along with Brandy will definitely do r&b a great deal.

    • TO BE HONEST I DON’T THINK BEYONCE EVEN CARED TO BRING RNB BACK WITH 4. IT JUST SEEMED LIKE A ‘OK CRITICS YOU CAN SHUT UP/ LET ME MAKE SONGS I CAN SING WHEN I’M TOO OLD TO SHAKE MY ASS’ ALBUM… WATCH HER RETURN TO POP WITH HER NEXT ALBUM. I GUARANTEE YOU SHE WILL BE BACK ON BILLBOARD AND RADIO…
      IT’S UP TO MARIAH OR ALICIA KEYS I GUESS.

    • Tonja

      how can you bring something back that you helped ‘kill’ for the sake of crossover appeal and sales? (e.g. IASF) fans didn’t support 4, not because of the bad management or single releases or videos, but because the overall project felt disingenuous. BKC did not “serve” the “children” the way she did with BDay. Nor did she “serve” the white waymakers and burdenbearers like she did with IASF. And those fans still left roaming listlessly in the dust after DIL finally waved the sand out of their eyes, found the nearest road and bonked out, thumb in the wind. She grasped so hard with IASF (or her management did) to cover all gamuts (or most of the popular selling genres) and fanbases that by the time the magnificent 4 debuted it fell superflat. Folk didn’t know what had happened. She needs to continue in the same vein. Keep R&B/Pop alive and stay with it—pull that knife out of its back that she helped diva-stab into it.

      Ashanti’s album Concrete Rose was AHEAD OF ITS TIME. Good luck to her this go ’round.

      Brandy and Monica need to stay the same but adapt ‘some’ change to cater to a new audience…it’s been how long since they released albums? I’d refer to Trent’s Youtube post on R&B singers and niche audiences not being so great for them in the long run.

      Alicia needs to take it all the way back. Her sound is unique. Her fans are plentiful. Her second album = magnificent. Her first = killer. She can uphold R&B.

      Mariah too needs to take it on back. No dancing on menzes laps in videos. Take it all the way back to some Vision of Love type songs; not just the cutesy stuff but the more mature stuff. She’s married with chirrens now.

      Trent: I’d like to see you do a post on ex-Neo-soulsters who ‘should’ turn the page and attempt R&B for the masses and not ‘just’ the soul music that put them on the map. For instance, Erykah Badu, Jilly from Philly, India Arie, etc. There are too many to name. But I would love to see some of those ladies get mainstream shine, aside from the ole regulars. LOL.

      By way of R&B male singers…………… I’ma let y’all continue to hash that one out.

    • Another example is Robin Thicke. He was great before becomin’ just another gigolo.

    • I originally wrote this on your Youtube comment about why R&B artists fail: From my perspective, the most egregious pretense of heterosexuality has nothing to do with homophobia. Urban R&B artist’s have always ushered forth an overtly sexual image. Certain gestures and choreographed movements are all part of the concert, concocted and approved by choreographers and record company executives. These are things that make the ladies soon. But who’s to say that you can’t be that transparent if you’re gay and watching thousands of women scream about how much they love you?

      Sexuality has always been a huge factor in regards to music, even though the imagery of it has become more prevalent within urban R&B in the last 12 years. You can go as far back as D’Angelo’s “How Does It Feel?” to current artist like Miguel’s “Quickie” for suggestive images of sexual content. This is nothing really new. But, I do understand the frustration, though. We need more content: I guess you can say we need the “man” in romance. LOL!

    • Ethan

      No. just no.

    • Omari

      I don’t think that there is one person that can “save” R&B music nut it will have to be a resurgence of true R&B artistry it’s gonna take more than just one artist to pull this off

    • JT

      I Think the music industry is just like television… it goes thru these cycles then eventually comes back around to whats important… i look at like how reality tv dominated the airwaves for the last couple years but if you look closely its slowly slowly dying out people are getting sick of the kardashians and want substance. The same can be said about music in my opinion. a year or so ago everybody and their mother was adding autotune to their records and that died out… then everyone tried to go pop (which is still the case) I think with Artists like Adele who i wouldnt neccesarily consider a pop or R&B artist coming out with music that had some substance and people taking note of it and embracing it we are finally about to go back to whats important…. music that actually means something… music that is classic…Although Beyonce’s album as u pointed out didnt do as well as many think it should have… it was a good R&B album from my perspective… its like shes going back to basics… i think it will take more than just big stars like Beyonce and Alicia Keys to fully bring R&B back to the forefront but it couldnt hurt. The problem is unfortunately some of these labels do a horrible job promoting their acts specifically their black artists… times have changed but i think these labels need to go back to some of the old chore basics when promoting while embracing the new. I Think women are in the right position to help resurrect R&B because i cant think of too many R&B artists that are male who have the star power or material that some of these women do… although Usher,Mario,Musiq,Eric Benet, & Chris Brown come to mind. I think Usher should embrace his R&B roots as well as his pop roots but dont over do it.. same with Chris Brown.. Chris Browns first two albums were great I wasnt a fan of his third and his fourth was great also but it seems he is going too far with the sexual stuff its good here and there but its like come on already enough! he needs to dial it back and go back to that “Exclusive” formula. Mario is so slept on! his albums never dissapoint in my eyes he and chris brown should be the future of R&B

    • Tristan

      I feel those four women named are R&B’s only hope. Quite a few people doubt Brandy, but her artistry, versatility and unique talent could go VERY far (if already hasn’t) with the right marketing and promotion. The same with Mariah.

    • DJ

      YEA I DEFINITELY AGREE WITH THIS POST, AND IM GLAD ASHANTI IS BACK SHE WAS R&B IN 2002/2003/2004 EVEN IN 05 AND 08 SHE DID HER THING AGAIN BUT IM GLAD SHES DOING DIFFERENT THINGS WITH THIS ALBUM “BRAVEHEART” NOW HER VOICE NEEDS TO BE PUSHED TO NEW LEVELS SHE HAS A GREAT VOICE THAT WAS DOWNPLAYED AND YEAH @DOMOdotSCORE HER AND 7 AURELIUS HAVE A PROJECT THERE WORKING ON FOR NEXT YEAR SO BE PREPARED FOR THAT 1 SHES BACK THIS TIME AROUND. BUT YEAH AS FAR AS R&B GOES TO ME ALL THESE ARTIST NEED TO COME BACK AND WORK TOGETHER MUSICALLY AND GET R&B BACK ON THE MAP STOP WITH THESE BREAKS AND DISAPPEARING AND START CONSTANTLY PUTTING OUT THAT R&B WE LIKE AND GET IT BACK ON THE MAP ASAP BECAUSE TO ME ITS DEAD AT THE MOMENT THERE’S ONLY LITTLE PEOPLE HERE TRYING TO HOLD IT DOWN AND ITS NOT WORKING….

    • @ItsDonavonFOOLS

      One day a male artist will come and provide us with great music, great vocals and great performances… It might not be any time soon but it will happen.

    • R. Kelly is the only mainstream male artist that keeps the R&B tradition alive.

    • ggggggg

      Joshua Ledet is going to save the dying R&B

    • missdiva

      I think monica must’ve snub u at some point cause the hate u dispell is shameless….FYI monica had a Gold critically acclaimes cd in 2010 so that 2003 relevancy quote seems personal lizard…and FACT when monica drops Hott music peopele will purchase, unlike brandy who drop a nice album but still cant interest people..imao talk bout that skizzy!lol