The Quiet Storm (Now In Digital) – A New Generation of Experimental R&B
Once regarded as the illegitimate stepchild of blues music and gospel, the 1950s incarnation of R&B helped to define popular music as a whole, even if most of the output was initially segregated to black music charts. The end of that decade saw the birth of Motown in Detroit, a label that borrowed its production model from the automobile manufactures for which “Motor Town” was knick-named, creating a literal hit factory with an assembly line of singers, songwriters, and session players tasked with crossing over to the mainstream. Despite this increasing lure of success, the aspiration to reach primarily white audiences didn’t jive with a faction of artists who by the 1970s spawned something of a countermovement with music that was unapologetically black, at times willfully attempting to spark a revolution.
This tension slowly diffused by the 1980s, when racial animus within popular culture on a whole was becoming dispersed. Synthesizers and drum machines pushed R&B further from its gospel and blues upbringing, and at the same time the music seemed to be losing itself in shadows cast from the growing dominance of hip-hop. By the 1990s these otherwise disparate genres found their union in New Jack Swing, which coupled a producer-driven sampling process with R&B song structure, and became so pervasive that actual R&B bands became practically extinct.
This coalition between hip-hop and R&B conquered the charts through the 2000s in a way soul music hadn’t since Motown, and again helped to redefine the formula for the modern pop song. Artistically speaking, however, the genre had something of a lost decade; having seemingly completed its migration from the church, the music was now wholly focused on the clubs. Standout producers like Timbaland, Missy Elliot, Puff Daddy, and the Neptunes weren’t interested in being Sam Cook or Sly Stone, instead they focused almost solely on making drunk people dance, and the result was exactly what pop music is meant to be: initially exhilarating yet ultimately forgettable.
With an indication that the pendulum may be swinging back from those years of aggressive decadence, this decade finds R&B in another state of flux with a new generation of artists producing music more for bedrooms than for nightclubs, mired in a British dance music aesthetic and wrought with a complex emotional sensibility and fondness for experimentation that evokes the soul of the seventies. The Quiet Storm (Now In Digital) exists as a snapshot of what seems to be emerging as an important plot point in the continuing story of R&B.
Wih’lo -It’s True
Eric Bellinger ft Jhene Aiko – Ex Again
Movement – US
Drake – Girls Love Beyonce
Fay – Talk With My Body (Drum Remix)
Jessy Lanza – Kathy Lee
Smashing Hearts – Red Cups
Shy Girls – Under Attack (The Drum Remix)
Friends – The Way (Blood Orange Mix)
Jhene Aiko – Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)
FXA Twigs – Water Me
The Weeknd – Enemy
SZA – 106.3
Manu Shrine – Out
Exit Left Orlogin
Fantazey – Fantazey
Raffertie – Trust (feat. YADI)
Kwabs – Last Stand
James Blake – Take a Fall For Me (feat. RZA)
How To Dress Well – When I Was In Trouble
Close – My Way (Remixes) [feat. Joe Dukie]
Floetry – Butterflies (Demo Version)