R&B: Talent & Image vs Material...

In the R&B genre, it seems that the biggest prerequisite is being able to "SANG" or at the very least be able to put on a good show. Especially in this day and age where the sales of albums are not what they used to be, being able to put on a good show is important as touring is the bread and butter for most artists. It is safe to say that albums and music are the smallest part for most acts and these constitute in literal theory only as promotional tools  that are used to promote the brand of an artist as a whole.

As per the previous article in this series, in order to improve the genre as a whole, it is important to look at the evolution of the genre over the years to see what changed in the industry that could have caused the further decline in the genres market share. One cannot argue the effects of piracy and technology as a major component in the decline however it would be silly if not downright ignorant if we failed to look at the other factors that further contributed to the downfall of the genre.

Today I am going to look at the concept of talent & image vs. material. Firstly what is talent? By definition talent is the natural aptitude of a person with regards to a specific task or duty. It is hard to quantify or even point out what talent is because as far as logic is concerned, talent is relative to perception. That is why masses and audiences do not always like the same artists because the interests and capabilities of so called artists is mostly reflected in the work that they do and by nature this is always varied. Having said that, there are some artists who the general public can agree are not talented however they do stand as good entertainers one not need look further than the likes of Rihanna.

Talent is not always a prerequisite for an artist to be successful. One quick look will show this in the search for what is considered universal talent by way of the popularised television shows such as American Idol, X Factor and The voice. While people can almost always identify a natural ability for a contestant to "SANG", one cannot help but observe that once the winners of said competitions launch their career following the show, it is not always met with universal and commercial acclaim. This goes to show that while the audiences can all relate and concur that a contestant is indeed talented, the material they produce thereafter is not always as universally well received.

The next thing to look at is image. In this genre the image of the artist or act,  has to relate to the material that they produce. A quick example is the simple notion that in Hip Hop it is imperative for the artist to have a rough street image. If we put this into context in the R&B genre, one cannot help but notice the effect that image played to the careers of two great R&B Icons, Mariah Carey and the incomparable Whitney Houston. When Ms Houston began her career, her music was mostly tailored towards as they call it the "cross over" market. This did not sit well with the black audiences and her solution was her very noticeable R&B full album My Love Is Your Love.  Whitney Houston was booed at an awards show that was predominately black oriented. The reason for this was because the black audiences felt that she had "sold out". Mariah Carey had a marked and very stark change in her career after leaving Tommy Motola and she began making music that was very urban based which she had not done before.

The last point I would like to make is the quality of the material that an artist makes. Going into a recording booth is very easy, however what comes out and is released has to meet a qualitative standard that can ensure that the body of work released is well received. In my opinion, the biggest change in the genre has been the lack of solid bodies of work. The Genre has become single obsessed and this has resulted in the lack of consumer confidence. In the 90's artists used to sell millions of records without ever having a top Billboard 100 top 10 record. One look at an artist like Brandy will show that even though she did not have as many top 10 records as her current contemporary peer, many of said peers will never have the album sales that she managed to rack up. Its easy to see when one looks at artists like Rihanna who does very well on the singles market but in terms of album sales her success on that side does not match up. Consumers are not willing to part with their money only to be able to enjoy one or two great songs. In the 90's fans found it easy to buy albums because the artists then mostly made cohesive albums.

As a way to close, my opinion and analysis is that in order for the genre to improve, it is important for the artists in this genre to focus on ensuring that their products are worth the audiences money. While the accolades of having hits are enticing , artists stand to benefit more is their work is of a high quality. This will in turn increase their tour ticket sales (where they make the most) and such much needed funds will even work in their favour as such funds can be used in creating even better marketing strategies that will ensure that their work is promoted in the best way possible.

In the next post. I will look at some albums that I think can be used as Genre defining the industry. Please comment below and say your thoughts. Until then let me say, R&B is not dead, it is in a coma and its only treatment will be the industry's ability to evolve while staying true to the things that made this genre a force, and that my friends is QUALITY ALBUMS.