As Usher and Chris Brown prepare to release new albums in the coming weeks, and Ne-Yo and Trey Songz slated for new releases later this year, R&B fans should be ecstatic. Yet, given the new push for pop music, as fans, we can’t be really sure what our favorite artists will give us.
I come from the 90s era, a time when my peers and I agree that music overall was pretty great. Both hip-hop and R&B were churning out hits, some made you think and some made you dance, but at the heart of it was great music. The music in the 90s, especially R&B, allowed you to feel a range of emotions, and I for one, love that.
In fact, I can easily list off several R&B acts from the 90s just to give an idea of the caliber of talent and great songs R&B fans had to enjoy. Jodeci, Boyz II Men, Silk, Jade, SWV, TLC, Johnny Gill, Bell Biv Devoe, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Usher, Brandy, Monica, Aaliyah, R. Kelly, this is the first moment I actually had to stop to think of more. You could count on these artists and plenty more to deliver the best love songs encompassing heartache, blissful love, and everything in between.
Sadly, today, I feel like I can’t count on Usher and the rest to deliver the types of songs we are missing in our musical lives. For every great song (“Climax”) there’s some pop song being thrust at us (“Scream”), both are new songs on Usher’s new Looking 4 Myselfalbum. And while these pop songs aren’t bad (they kind of grow on you after a while), it’s just not what I want from U-S-H-E-R-R-A-Y-M-O-N-D.
I was so hopeful when I first heard “Climax”, I felt like Usher had dabbled in pop on the last album and moved back to what we love best. However, upon giving his new album a listen, I discovered more pop songs that I anticipated. And Chris Brown is seemingly on the same path. F.A.M.E. was half pop, half R&B, and it would appear he’s headed in the same direction with Fortune.
In fact, some of the better R&B songs Chris Brown makes end up as unreleased singles not found on his pop heavy albums. Often times these songs are offered to fans through a mixtape release or just leaked. Artists also love to offer “deluxe” versions of their albums, which will include songs that didn’t make the regular version. Usher’s deluxe album includes three more R&B songs. It’s almost as they are recording these tracks as an afterthought, realizing that their real fans may like these songs. As if these fans will go the extra mile just to get the music they want, and it probably works.
Overall, the industry seems to be on a pop/dance movement. And I can’t totally begrudge an artist for capitalizing on this phenomenon; considering that those who stick to the standard R&B formula tend to fly under the radar. And if I’m completely honest with you, the Looking 4 Myself album is pretty good, and there are some GREAT R&B tracks on it. My personal favorites are “Lessons For The Lover” and “What Happened To U”.
Time will tell if artists like Usher and Chris Brown continue with the current Rhythm & Pop albums they’ve released. In a way, this adoption of pop within the R&B format is weakening the genre. I would love to see Usher get back to his Confessions days, that album went diamond without the sprinkling of random pop records. At least we still have Trey Songz…YUUUPP!