Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Has Beyoncé outgrown Contemporary R&B?

Beyoncé: You know, I feel like the only way I can be around as long as I pray that I can be around is to always push the envelope. And it's really exciting that now people are allowing music to just be music... and R&B and hip-hop artists are collaborating with different types of artists. Hopefully we can just continue to grow and just step outside of hip-hop or rap or rock or whatever and it can all just be good music.

With this quote from the Queen of Pop & Soul, I begin this new entry. Also, we all know that Friday is the anniversary of a death that music and entertainment fans still feel: The King Of Pop. I was telling someone on Bwboard.net that it is still fresh in my mind and a hard thing to get over. He is truly missed in music and my prayer is that all of his family, loved ones as well as the fans(of which I am one) will continue to heal from this tragic. We miss you, MJ. Long live the King.

With that in mind, I think that if he was alive, and debuted in a similar to what Beyoncé has done in her career, people would ask him the same question. If looked at on the surface, you might say, Yes she has. One example is last year's BET Awards. Her performance of Avé Maria was the most distinctive performance of the night. In fact, Jamie Foxx and QuestLove from the Roots, after the performance spoke on how brave she was to even think to do such a performance. And of course, she got a lot of feedback from it. Some of it positive, a lot of it negative. I thought it was beautiful and sincere, and I especially enjoy her rendition of Schubert's Avé Maria.

However, as beautiful as the performance was, one of the complaints was that they wanted her perform a song that would have people shake her butt. It's a shame because it wasn't about her, it was about MJ. Still, on Bwboard.net, one of the questions was, Has she outgrown the BET Awards? That's an interesting question considering that the BET Awards is to Contemporary R&B what the Country Music Awards is to Country Music. The way she stood out performing and the way she conducted herself artistically in IA..SF era especially, would make you think on the surface that she has.

Then we have the interview of Kim Thompson, one of her drummers from her band. She said some interesting things considering Bey's growth in terms of musicianship and the overall growth that the music industry should have, especially with regards to Jazz being a big focal point for that growth. Here is the video: ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E29oE1jtQKE) Let me say that I learned in those few minutes about where Bey is progressing musically than I have in all the interviews that she has ever done. And she continues to grow musically and expand herself as she progresses in her career, it would seem that she is outgrowing the boundaries that Contemporary R&B has set for artists of that genre and would leave it altogether eventually. So we think.

But with Beyoncé, a lot of times things aren't always what it seems. Some people tend to look at surface stuff with regards to her music. As deep as try to be, they don't really think outside the box when it comes to her art. Perfect example, one of the things that critics said when reviewing IA...SF was that they wanted more of "Sasha Fierce" and less of "Beyoncé". Talk about typecasting and putting an artist inside a box. (BTW, even Sasha Fierce wasn't all uptempo "club bangers", which is probably the point of why the CD was arranged in that way). Another issue was that when critics reviewed DIL, an album that is considered one of the most influential albums from the Rock and Roll Hall Fame, they felt that there were too many ballads. Then music fans wonder why the industry is as stuck as it is. Forget quality of music, if it is not in the mindset of what the critic thinks of the artist they are reviewing, they run with that rather truly judging the music unbiasly.

Okay, I am digressing a little but it all comes back down to this: Has Beyoncé outgrown Contemporary R&B? I would say, No. To me, Contemporary R&B is to Beyoncé what milk is to a baby. Let me explain that. When a child is born, they are weaned on milk and baby food because they can't be fed anything else. They can't handle it. Then as they grow up, their culinary palate expands. Especially as adults, and obviously milk isn't the only thing that they drink but no one stop drinking milk because of this. They continue to drink as well as other things. It's the same way with Beyoncé as far as Contemporary R&B. My conviction is that Contemporary R&B IS Beyoncé and as she expands, the genre expands also and it opens the door for artists in that genre to expand their sound also and with that we get quality music and the industry as a whole gets better.

One of my favorite videos is the Halo Behind The Scenes. I think most of us have seen it, so I will get right to the point. One of the most interesting things that she said was that because of the Drums that she added to Halo that the song itself is a Hip Hop Song. Actually to quote her, a great mixture of R&B and Hip Hop. I would have never figured that song to be a hip hop but then again, if this song can be(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NEUX-HYRtUA), then yes Halo can be too. The point is, as she said in the quote that I posted at the beginning, if an artist wants to grow, progress, mature and leave a legacy that will even outlive them, these are the things that an artist must be willing to do.

Don't get me wrong, there are artists who stay withn the framework of what their genre is and that's cool. But also, you have artists like Aretha doing Jazz and even substituting for Pavorotti at the Grammys, Diana Ross covering Billie Holiday, even Mary J. Blige doing an Jazz album. An artist will go out of their comfort zone sometimes, even away from what their fans think of them for progression and growth. Even though it is still early in Bey's career, she has 3 albums that are going to be looked in terms of the legacy of her genre. Contemporary R&B is a young genre, and the Grammys have been awarding it for only 8 years. Yet Bey is the only 3 time winning in that Grammy category.

I believe when looking back at those albums and the legacy that it has left for that genre, one of the things that historians are going to look at is how Beyoncé with those albums set the course for the genre and with it have not only influenced her peers but others after her. Contemporary R&B won't be bound by rigid structures of what the genre should be about, and that's a great thing. That's what the genre should be about. It's what MJ did, and as I said, he is one of the pioneers of this genre. Beyoncé is a product of his legacy, and one of his musical daughters. If people want to truly honor him, then we honor those who are carrying on his legacy musicially, such as she is doing.

RIP Michael Joseph Jackson
(August 29 1959-June 25, 2009)

1 comment:

  1. Great message! I love how you were descriptive in using milk and babies that become adults as an example to demonstrate how we all incorporate new things in our lives. Beyonce is still R&B,it's her foundation. She's actually music, period! ...and I think she's clever enough to take her fans on a musical journey and remain true to herself. That is key and very honest of her. I don't think she's ever trying to be something she's not. Authenticity is the main ingredient that must shine through in your work, no matter which direction you going in. Contemporary R&B, should not be viewed as something where there are so many limitations. There are so many elements that make up the genre, that's insulting to imply that she's outgroing it because her musical taste is expanding. I see it as a gift to music. When any artist dedicates themselves to their craft and better themselves for the sake of becoming a better artist something is gained not loss!