My mom tells me all the time that things tend to trend in cycles. Meaning if they go away for a period of time, eventually they find their way back in a different form but with similarities to the previous ones. And I think that’s what we’re starting to see with this new emergence of R&B.
No offense to the legend, but when T-Pain reached his peak of success back in 09′-’10, his overuse of “autotune” slowly killed R&B. No longer were singing artists actually singing and caring about their lyrics like we’re used to. We saw an overflow of not only singers, but rappers making music with autotune, and were more focused on being catchy rather than substantive. The quality of music took a deep decline.
This is not to say that all R&B that was being made during this time was poor; we still had artists such as Beyonce, Trey Songz, Frank Ocean, Chris Brown, etc. giving us quality music but the majority of the hip hop and R&B landscape was being dominated with the use of autotune. We saw more and more artists who didn’t have strong vocals but we’re considered R&B acts because of their melodic songs (i.e Fetty Wap, Bryson Tiller). But times are starting to change.
We’re now seeing actual vocalists and songwriters being championed again. You see the great success that Solange had with her last project, A Seat At The Table. We’re also seeing the rise of a new R&B songstress SZA with her critically acclaimed debut, CTRL. And with the growth of social media and the internet being the main location where people hear music now, more and more artists are being discovered and the quality of music hitting mainstream sound-waves has increased. Artists like Daniel Ceasar, Khalid, H.E.R., Brent Faiyaz, dvsn, and many more have benefited from this new wave of receiving music.
As a fan of quality music, I think the direction that music is going in, at least as far as R&B is concerned, we’re in a good space. I don’t think we’ll ever matched the kind of music made back in the 90s, but I think we’re taking steps to be just as great.