It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post, so….hello! LOL.
For the last week or so, I’ve been in a rental car while my regular ride is in the body shop. While I miss my regular auto and all the amenities therein, I really miss my satellite radio.
Mannnn….with the variety of programming provided by satellite radio, I really have found out how much I miss it when I start listening to…………urban contemporary radio. I’m really not hatin’ and yes I am post 40 years old but….where… is the talent in today’s urban contemporary R&B??? Somebody? The keyword, I believe, in this phrase is “contemporary”, which in itself (by default) describes the state of today’s R&B…most of it anyway.
Technology has made it such that anyone with some modest computer skills or (hardware and/or software) can compose music (if you want to call it that, in some instances)…or “beats” (ugh). Ok, a good deal of you reading this know I am a musician. I play three instruments, guitar, bass, and keyboards, in that order. Beats…..are what I know to be the drums and percussions in a song. Me, I like to make “beats” as part of my songs. Am I clownin’ the phrase “beats” (a term that has become all encompassing in computer and electronic music production systems), yeah…I am. I’m clowning it only because making popular music today, especially in the urban circles, has been really watered down and devoid of any true musical knowledge of theory and arranging. Gone (in urban music) is “the band”…the only known remnant of such today would be….The Roots. In no other genre (save genres of electronic dance music which never had bands anyway, except in the early days with the likes Devo, Kraftwerk, etc) of music is “the band” really dead, especially rock and country music. I think that fact draws a direct correlation to the lack of *musical* talent in popular urban contemporary music.
Is there anything *wrong* with where urban contemporary music has evolved to? No, I don’t think so. I do think that the music has evolved, but incompletely…the “talent” was left behind for the most part. I believe hip-hop has had the greatest evolution of any genre that I have listened to (especially being a listener BEFORE it went commercial radio). The evolution of those in charge of A&R has a great deal to do with where the music is as well. For years the marketing of R&B as long been about what the street says is hot…flash and show vs talent. Long gone are the long multiyear contracts for artists for various reasons, but with that leaves the great anticipation of your favorite artist coming out with a release of jams every year (I know some of u remember this….(wink)).
The music industry has evolved, as a whole, not necessarily for the best (in my own mind). I don’t think listeners in their 20’s would necessarily agree but, just as I was, it’s what you’re are continually force fed (as is said) or exposed to commercially that you determine as normal, and even good.
I’m sure my parents and yours would probably expound on the state of music I grew up on as teenager/young adult, in the same way I am in this post. I think the difference here versus then would be the inclusion of actual musical talent in what I was growing up listening to, versus what is prevalent now. There was a surge of “neo soul” that was big, seems like we just came off the “throwback” era of current artists bringing back that true soul sound (I actually like Raphael Saadiq’s “100 Yard Dash), etc…but they don’t appear to be fueled by the record industry with respect to what is “hot” and selling.
In defense of urban contemporary music, I would never say it takes no talent to create what is in heavy rotation. It does take talent to leverage the technology of recording to manifest the end product, it’s the theory, love and joy of learning to compose on a musical instrument that is lacking. I, too, am an electronic musician as well and love some of the genres that are strictly electronic (hence my features of such on my weekly podcast). I think the advent of technology will continue to make such a desire to learn an instrument diminish as times go by…IF…such a desire is not kept alive through various means (people and programs, etc).
As for satellite radio and especially internet radio, they both give a welcomed alternative to commercial radio. Couple that with the state of music distribution via the internet, the entire recording industry IS evolving. I miss my XM, not just because I dont have to deal with commercials every 10 mins either. I hope to have my ride back next week.
What are your thoughts?