We have all witnessed the decline of R&B as a whole over the last few years. Artists who once graced the Hot 100 with soulful grooves have either traded their ballads for Euro pop two steps, or have just fallen completely out of the charts. For the longest it seemed that the only time you could hear true R&B was during a tribute portion of an awards show. There has been a slow but steady change in the attention given to rhythm and blues over the last year. Evidence of such is the reopening of Motown Records, as well as a high priority placed on R&B artists such as Monica, Tank, Anthony Hamilton, newcomer Luke James, and more by their respective labels. There has also been an abundance of R&B talent on reality shows as of late. Could this signal a major reinvestment in R&B?
The world sat on the edge of its seat during the season finale of NBC’s breakout show The Voice. Alicia Keys backup vocalist and R&B crooner Jermaine Paul was in the top two and the decision was nearing. Based on how R&B singers have fared in past reality shows, combined with the low sales of season 1 winner Javier Colon’s album, America figured it would be a long time before we saw another soul man take the crown. In a surprising twist, Paul was voted as the winner. With that prize came a recording contract with Universal Republic Records, and a shot at putting Rhythm & Blues back at the top of the charts.
The crowning of Jermaine Paul as “The Voice” is seemingly a part of an uprising of R&B as of the last few months. When urban labels Jive, Arista, and J records were dissolved into Sony Music’s RCA Music Group, we thought that would be the death of their urban acts. Enter hit singles and albums by the label’s urban acts Anthony Hamilton, Chris Brown, Monica & Brandy, and more. Just two blocks over in the Universal Music Group building, legendary label Motown Records was quietly being restructured with hit singer/songwriter Ne-yo being tapped as its senior VP of A&R and singer Kem as its flagship artist.
Is the future of R&B safe in the hands of the major labels? That question should be answered over the course of the next year. New artists such as Luke James, Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, and others have shown promise. On the reality front, the ball is in the court of Jermaine Paul, X-Factor’s Marcus Canty, and American Idol’s Joshua Ledet. The exposure is there, and now it’s their time to capitalize.