Adele Is Not Your Enemy: Why We Need To Support Black Soul Singers

adele hello

Adele’s new song is blowing up. And some of y’all are heated.

I understand the frustration.

It’s as misplaced and directionless as Ne-Yo’s hairline but I understand it.

Adele’s “Hello” has taken the world’s earbuds by storm  – piercing, angst-filled lyrics delivered by a reverberating voice that can shake your soul. Fans went nuts, critics showered praise and the song itself debuted atop the charts.

“Hello” has all the ingredients of a classic soul song, minus one factor – it’s sung by a white woman.

And that doesn’t sit too well with many R&B fans, who have watched their favorite black artists –  whose voices are just as powerful as Adele’s – fade into obscurity. Earlier this week, Keyaira Kelly of Hello Beautiful posted an interesting piece on the success of white soul artists who profit on black sounds. The article itself isn’t so bad; I agreed with many of the writer’s points. Instead, it was social media’s typical overreaction, basically labeling Adele an culture-appropriating opportunist, that set me off.

Everybody just chill.

This is nothing like Iggy Azalea watching two seasons of The Wire and suddenly rapping like your neighborhood d-boy. There’s plenty of blame to go around for the demise of mainstream R&B, but Adele is not your enemy.

Your enemy is mainstream radio and the tone-deaf executives who serve as puppetmasters.

Listen, if radio is your only medium for new music, the R&B you’re hearing can be placed into two categories – rappers pretending to sing or singers pretending to rap. And if you’re lucky, you’ll get both sides in one terrible package!

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It’s pretty frustrating when radio-embraced artists like Sam Smith are walking around with arms full of Grammys, while an artist like Tamia can drop arguably the best album of 2015, yet she’s only recognized when she’s in AT&T commercials with her superstar husband.

So allow me to be more real with you than the industry has been:

NEWSFLASH: R&B IS NOT A COMMODITY ON TOP 40 STATIONS.

The R&B you’re hearing  isn’t even classified as R&B, it’s rebranded as “pop” because it’s more digestible. But make no mistake, it’s R&B. You can’t listen to Adele’s aching, moving vocals and write it off as disposable pop.

It’s R&B. But because R&B is an industry black sheep, we slap another name on it. That’s not the fault of Adele, Sam Smith or any other “blue-eyed soul” artist (I hate that label, by the way).

But there is great R&B out there that isn’t afraid of its label. Tyrese. Jazmine Sullivan. Kenny Lattimore. Teedra Moses. Lalah Hathaway. Lyfe Jennings. Charlie Wilson. Raheem DeVaughn.

All those albums are great. And they’re all less than 12 months old.

R&B is alive. Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

So don’t make this a white artists vs black artists thing. R&B’s lack of mainstream appeal is because the Powers That Be don’t see value in its name. But we aren’t powerless.

Wanna bring R&B back to the spotlight? Support the artists who are still keeping it alive, and don’t waste time throwing stones at talented white artists.  Save those stones for those trash artists (black AND white) and the executives who back them.

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1 Comments

  1. I think Adele is more adult contemporary than r&b. Adele was no Amy Winehouse who was r&b.

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