From The Grio — I like to say that I was born in the decade of the best soul music. That would be the 1970s of course. Countless classics came out of that era and you just might have been conceived to some of that baby-making music that was put out by the likes of Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass and others.
That was an amazing era in soul music that might never be duplicated in terms of the sheer number of superior quality songs that stand the test of time. It sounds trite, but it’s true that today’s R & B pales in comparison to what was playing during those all night rent parties where platform shoes scuffed the floors and Afros were artfully picked and sprayed.
Seriously, how many R & B songs with heavy rotation on the radio right now will you still jam to 25-30 years from now? Probably not many. But all is not lost. There are men and women out there making good soul-stirring music today.
In a recent CNN article called “Where is the love in R & B music?”, writer John Blake laments upon what he feels is the lack of romance and real love in today’s R & B music. Blake offers up fond memories of classics like “After the Love is Gone” by Earth Wind and Fire and “Come Go With Me” by Teddy Pendergrass as examples of what true love songs sound like.
In Blake’s eyes, Miguel’s “Quickie” and Chris Brown’s “No Bullsh*t” epitomize today’s lackluster R & B songs that are too crass and explicit to explore romance in any meaningful way. He cites a study that found courtship to be the least popular theme in 2009’s biggest R & B hits.
Blake is right about those two particular songs lacking in the romance department and yes, many of the songs (R & B and otherwise) that get heavy radio play aren’t exactly dripping with love. But there are real R & B out there and you don’t have to trudge through obscure websites or spend time in matchbox-sized venues to find them.
This is hardly an exhaustive list, but here are seven black R & B artists whose ruminations on love will be as relevant and soulful decades from now as they are today. These artists might not have a #1 album every year, but they are Grammy nominated, critically acclaimed and get big co-signs from well-known tastemakers in music. Each artist has put out an R & B album/EP in 2010 and/or 2011.
First off, Jill Scott was robbed this year. Robbed I tell you. Not one Grammy nomination? That’s pure insanity. Jilly from Philly is known for her riveting lyrics. She was/is a spoken word artist and you can cleary hear the poetry and depth of her words. Her fourth studio album “Light of the Sun” takes listeners all over the emotional journey of love for a woman. She explores everything from that sex-only “situation” (So Gone) to the joyful declarations of love in “So in Love.