Recently, singer/songwriter The Dream set the internet on fire after stating that “black artists can’t do soul records”. Citing pressure by the labels to deliver club and pop hits, he stated that white artists have the liberty to do more soulful records. With the recent mega-success of British soul singer Adele, is it safe to assume that like blues and rock n roll, soul music is no longer for black people?
There is no doubt that R&B and soul music are living vibrantly on the independent scene, thanks to some of music’s favorite crooners taking their careers into their own hands. There is, however, a serious lack of non pop infused black music on the Hot 100. For the last year, British artist Adele has dominated the pop charts by doing what most have deemed black music. No one is questioning the authenticity of Adele’s voice or records, but some have claimed that she’s merely doing what artists like Jill Scott & Ledisi have been doing for years, with the slight advantage of being white.
It seems The Dream isn’t the only one who shares this sentiment. Stephin Merritt, lead singer of indie rock band The Magnetic Fields, was recently quoted as saying, “I like Adele, though I have some reservations about why people like her. She really has a lovely voice, but I only get suspicious when people get excited about British people who sound like American black people.” Merritt goes on to say, “Basically she sounds like Anita Baker, and people are not, you know, wild and crazy about Anita Baker. And I think about the whole, with the racism, when people love when British people sound like American black people.”
The blame cannot be placed squarely on the blue eyed soul crooners from across the pond. Quite frankly, American R&B artists are held in higher merit overseas than Europe’s native artists, so one could argue there is a double standard. The blame can possibly be placed on the artists who are in a position to make more soulful music, but opt not to. Whomever the blame belongs to, the situation will not change until black artists as a whole start singing black music again.