This music stinks. Your taste sucks.

ian @ infrngrphy # % emacs C-x C-r

I was reading this article [pretty damn anti-RIAA by Courtney Love herself]. And she kept mentioning how she believes her music is not a product and every piece is a reflection on her efforts. I respect that. Really. And I haven’t even heard her music before.

If she really meant all that [and apparently she does, she’s walking away from the label system to stick to her ideals], then I will respect her music. I may not like it [I don’t think I will] but I won’t dismiss it like most of the money-laundering crap that’s coming nowadays. They call it RnB/Soul. R&B for Rap & Beat NOT Rhythm & Blues. The commericalized Rap & Beat that is so horribly popular. Puke.

Still puking.

I tried to like it. I tried to tolerate it. I couldn’t. I just looked up the lyrics of some of the top RnB singles right now. The lyrics are very typical. Mostly about failed relationships and how the singer is a stoic person, and can move on without batting an eyelid. Mama’d be proud.

I’m not going to say the lyrics suck. I personally don’t listen to lyrics in songs for the most part. I’m highlighting this to establish that RnB’s allure is probably NOT the lyrics. [unless it’s really pretty informative like Lazyboy’s Underwear Goes Inside The Pants] Or you’re a product of typical emo culture and you wanna play this particular song over the radio [and you know your friends who in all probability are just like you, will be listening] so you can either demonstrate your love or hate for the other party. Pfft.

And the musical arrangement itself is very unique [maybe some people like it, but I can’t stand it]. It somehow has taken influences from hip-hop; there’re repetitive tunes [riffs?] in the background that get faded in and out with voices alternately. There are prominent beats, so it’s not exactly lounge material. But the beats themselves are too far apart and irregular to be real intense dance material [compared to house or trance]. So it’s something in between. And that’s very unsettling too.

So you can’t really relax with a RnB CD. It’s like going home after a hard frustrating day at work and the first thing you see is your pet bulldog’s face. [I have nothing against bulldogs but that breed really needs to start cross-breeding.] Besides how is it relaxing if someone’s complaining in your ears, albeit with rhyming sentences? You complain if your parents nag!

And you can’t dance to RnB like it means anything. At most you can do some popping, or breaking during the voice bits, and slow hip-grinding [too cliched] during the “instrumental” bit. Since dance is supposed to be bodily “expression” of the music you’re dancing to, one wonders, what you express when you start breaking other than the fact that you can turn 50 times on your head and not be visibly dizzy.

A good friend said he only could appreciate musicians who can really do something nobody else could do without a lot of effort [he likes hard rock, bordering on metal] I don’t dig his music and he doesn’t dig mine, but we agree on the talent bit.
Rappers aren’t untalented but they’re not the most talented either. Looking past the rhyming and the angst, and the repetitive “music” there seems to be no essence in most rap songs. Rapping in itself is not easy to do, but appreciating “rapping about nothing useful” is like appreciating a white wall that Picasso painted.

Is it just me or has anyone else noted the EXPLOSION of RnB albums and new stars hitting the shelves almost every month? And the local scene actually buys it all? The local top 20 has become a personal blacklist. Going back to what he said about talented musicians, talent is a relative thing I believe.

If only the truly deserving get albums, then why are there SO MANY R&B artists?? They all sound similar, they dress the same. You’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all. There may be vocally gifted artists among them, and they alone could sing all of the songs by the other groups without any major change in overall mood. Many don’t write their own lyrics. And let’s not bring up the characteristic handshakes and other idiosyncrasies that just make them look like total poseurs.

I would hate to sound like the people at this “forum” and I’m trying not to. Not liking R&B is not racism.

Personally, I think the biggest peeve among R&B haters is that R&B artists have no universal relevance. To listen to most R&B, you have to be aware of the ghetto culture, or actually feel that social networking is supremely important or know that artist’s personal life-story, or even the artist’s career squabbles so you can truly understand what the singer is trying to say.

And if you do understand, then some part of you wonders, why do I care? If it were really all about the beats, then no one would raise the objection. But there are lyrics. Lyrics are there to be listened to. And you feed your listeners with your personal crap. This is * your * “soul”, not mine.

See? That’s the problem. There’re a million artists out there and there’s no guarantee everyone’s going to sing socially relevant songs [personally I dislike most of those too; they tend to sound soppy or emo] But the musical arrangement in songs alone gets major weightage. On top of that, having a good or unique voice helps. In R&B, the music is pitiful and downright pathetic and I don’t say this because it’s synthesized [I love electronica and IDM]. Rather it’s the fact that the BGM in R&B seems effortless, and almost always repetitive and cliched. Almost as if BGM complexity is compromised for depth of lyrics.

But if they ARE touting their lyrics as their trump card, then as I’ve already explained, R&B lyrics for the most part don’t inspire any sentiments except mild amusement or if you’re a bit more involved, appreciation of the occasionally exceptional voice. The song contents themselves are usually too generic [eg: soulful ballads] or context-specific [eg: personal troubles highlighted in song] to be appreciated.

Again, if lyrics are your major selling point, then why is the image of the singer more important than the songs? Why are the music videos usually directed like propaganda videos to develop a cult of personality? Usually the singers themselves appear throughout the aimless MV, dancing sultrily among a group of improperly covered bottoms [I think there were heads attached, but I couldn’t tell, the bottoms were hypnotic] in cliched surroundings. Are the artists exhibiting their music or the dancers they paid for or their sex-siren/heart-throb image?

If I wanted to see the artist dancing, I’d go to that artist’s concerts, where he’d probably do just that without the luxury of multiple takes. Considering music videos were made famous as promotional items by Michael Jackson, and that was only because he made every video into an entertaining mini-story, even R&B MVs don’t have any display of creativity in them.

Of course there are exceptions; very few and far in between. Early hip-hop was actually good, because it was unique. A new take on the boundaries of music and dance. Even today, certain rap songs with witty lines and semi-cool wordplay leave you amused and entertained. And it definitely has potential. Watch raps on Kollaboration [U2B it], awesome! It’s the commercialised cliched junk that is our focus.

In a saturated and cutthroat-competitive industry, what then could explain the sudden unexplicable and asymmetric rise of prominence of this fundamentally not-as-good music?
The fact that it’s mostly by members of a minority group and political correctness must be exercised?
To capitalise on these “stars” to ride out the R&B fad like the hip-hop fad before it?

Who knows?

I know, everyone has their own tastes and stuff like that. I just don’t understand the hype. There’s gotta be a reason for liking something. And in the case of music, it’s usually talent, or powerful voice, great lyrics and/or awesome music [lounge, club or dance material]. Mainstream R&B seems to have none of the above.

Rap does have potential. It allows for non-singing types to make their views known via an entertainment medium: song. Culturally, it originated in the uneducated ghetto, so the message was deep but in words anyone could understand. The slang is actually unique because it lends itself readily to metaphors. And what better medium for satire than metaphors? The tone is usually angry or frustrated or emo, or was originally, and even today indie rappers are hailed for inpromptu rhyming. That is actually a show of talent, to condense a message into a rhyme almost instantly despite deep irritation. Next only to sarcasm. But the commerical artists don’t seem to be exhibiting these qualities.

If you’re a fan of today’s R&B, then PLEASE, do explain your fascination. No flaming.

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