In recent years, it’s no mystery that the R&B genre has taken quite a decline in active artists confirming to it. I’m talking about releasing true rhythm and blues, smoothly-crooned love songs with real emotion. Now, you could blame this on many things, such as the current craze that is auto-tune, and how it could suck the emotion of the great R&B/soul singers like Luther Vandross, Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles; or you could blame it on the rise in trashy, forgettable songs that are about as much R&B as they are revolutionary.
At the heart of this issue is the UK and their R&B/Grime acts. Acts like Roll Deep, Tinie Tempah, simply aren’t R&B: they’re grime with big influences of pop; easily disposable pop at that. Jay Sean and Taio Cruz haven’t made an R&B record in years because they know it doesn’t sell well in the UK anymore, or at least the latter does, the former is probably a sheep who’s abandoned his homeland for collaboration after collaboration and forgettable pop tune after forgettable pop tune.
Of course, this isn’t entirely our fault, look at the change in the big American R&B names: Chris Brown has lost the UK’s respect so whatever he releases won’t sell over here; Usher and the unashamedly pop-y ‘OMG’ and ‘DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love’; Ne-Yo and the dance-pop of ‘Beautiful Monster’, and new-comer Jason Derulo with ‘In My Head’ and ‘Ridin’ Solo’; so this has had huge influence on the change in the typical R&B sound here in the UK, and with the anchor of R&B off the scene, and with her last efforts split between true R&B and more marketable pop – Beyoncé – she left Rihanna and Shontelle keep float the female R&B singer’s boat. Rihanna’s decided to do pop, so she’s off with Stargate and David Guetta, leaving poor old Shontelle to try and do some fancy stuff with her voice and her R&B. Naturally, everything has steadily fallen apart in the R&B department, so now calls the presence of a proper R&B song from and properly respected R&B popstar.
But the results of this tangled web of genre-switching and taking musical hiatuses, is that, even when Usher, Ne-Yo, Taio Cruz, Jay-Sean, Rihanna, Shontelle and Chris Brown promoting their current albums, only one has released a single in recent months that could be classified and an R&B record: Shontelle’s ‘Impossible’ (I would say Jason Derulo’s ‘What If’, but it’s far too auto-tuned to be anywhere near soulful). But the cherry on top was Usher then having the nerve to call UK R&B acts “pop acts, because no-one does R&B in the UK anymore, it all comes from the States”.
Wrong again, now go find a party to get trashed at. And write a song about it, and a girl you met; you’ll instantly have a hit.
All’s (well, not quite “all’s”) about to change because Ne-Yo, upon releasing the second official UK single from his third album ‘Libra Scale’, has thankfully restored a bit of R&B tuneage to the charts. ‘One In A Million’ and it’s island-infused beat, laid-back rhythm and synths blend together like an ice cold smoothie on a sweltering summer’s day. It’s auto-tune-less, sincere, and surprisingly catchy, even if he’s still doing his Michael Jackson impression more than ever with his vocal foibles and a video which echoes that of ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’, and just look at his trousers… Ankle swingers? White socks? Oh dear Ne-Yo, that’s swagga jackin’.
Here’s the video in question. Are floating roses and electric force-fields a-customary in Ne-Yoland?
YES! I WANT AN ANSWER TO THAT TOO. WHAT IS ‘WITH’ HIM!? Him and that hat… GUH! Make like a Ke$ha and take it off!
‘One In A Million’ has such a dreamy, near hypnotic production and vocal, it just about trumps anything there is out there that calls itself “R&B”, and on an even higher plus note – it’s going to have much more longevity in my books than ‘Beautiful Monster’, which quickly became overplayed and eventually a standard 2.5 star song (I originally gave it 4.0 stars). But this, this I’d be quite happy to hear every hour.
Rating: 4.5 STARS
Download: November 1, 2010 (OUT NOW)
Featured Album: ‘Libra Scale’