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Sound and Vision: The Fall of R&B: How Pop Is Selling Its Soul for a Dance Beat

Remember the days when R&B and hip hop was the sound of pop? From the ‘90s to the mid ‘00s, music’s most dependable hitmakersMariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton, Boyz II Men, R. Kelly, Usher, Brandy, Monica, Alicia Keys, Destiny’s Child and Beyoncé, among themspecialized in “crossover” soul, climbing both the R&B charts and the Hot 100 in tandem.

But lately, something strange has been happening on Billboard’s R&B /Hip-Hop Songs chart: A hit is no longer necessarily a hit. Just because a song is big in the R&B sphere doesn’t mean it’s big anywhere else. For the week ending April 7, 2012, only one song in the R&B/Hip-Hop Top 10Tyga’s “Rack City”had managed a comparable placing on the Hot 100.

The song at No. 1, Beyoncé’s “Love on Top,” which had been there for multiple weeks, was way down at No. 54 on the Hot 100. (It briefly entered the Top 40 last September, debuting and peaking at No. 20 after Beyoncé performed it at the MTV Video Music Awards.) Meanwhile, there wasn’t a single R&B diva in the Top 40 aside from Janelle Monae, who got there by guest-singing on rock band fun.’s No. 1 hit “We Are Young.”

What happened to pop’s soul? There’s a disconnect between the pop and R&B charts that hasn’t been so pronounced since the days when Michael Jackson’s label, CBS Records, threatened to pull all of its artists from MTV if the then-fledgling network didn’t play Jackson’s “Billie Jean” video.

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: The Fall of R&B: How Pop Is Selling Its Soul for a Dance Beat’

Sound and Vision: Pop’s Singles Scene — the Scores and Strikes of 2012 (So Far)

During the early weeks of the year, 2012 sounded a lot like 2011, as Adele continued to rule Billboard’s Top 200 album and Hot 100 singles charts with 21, one year into the album’s life span. For all of her ongoing success, by February, the tops of the pops finally began to welcome some much-needed counterprogramming to The Adele Show, featuring rotating regular guest stars Katy Perry, Rihanna and Bruno Mars.

For several weeks, the late Whitney Houston became the chart force in death that she hadn’t been in life for more than a decade (“I Will Always Love You,” her signature No. 1 hit, re-charted and rose to No. 3, and one week, she had three albums in the Top 10), while a number of vets and newcomers arrived on the singles scene looking for a hit. They all came out swinging, but not everyone scored. Although the night—er, the year—is still young, look who’s winning (and losing) now.

Continue reading ‘Sound and Vision: Pop’s Singles Scene — the Scores and Strikes of 2012 (So Far)’

Soundcheck: RiRi & Chris: What Were They Thinking?

Just three years after the brutal beating that left Rihanna bruised and bloody in the street; we are supposed to forgive, forget and get ready to party?  I think not.

After releasing two collaborations last week, Chris Brown and Rihanna are back in the headlines, and back to confusing their fans.

Given the sexually suggestive lyrics of “Birthday Cake” these two weren’t too worried about sending the wrong message. “Girl I wanna f*%$ you right now (right now)/Been a long time, I’ve been missing your body/Let me-let me turn the lights down/ When I go down it’s a private party…”

My disappointment falls squarely in Rihanna’s court. Up until now, I’ve given Chris a hard time, feeling like he wasn’t remorseful enough. Thinking that his expectations of forgiveness were too presumptive; that he seemed to feel a bit too entitled for someone who almost killed one of my other favorite artists. The music, of course, has remained strong throughout the turmoil, and his album, F.A.M.E., was easily one of the best of 2011.

But now, my attention is shifted to Rihanna. She’s a rock star. She’s the victim. She’s the one holding all the cards. It’s no wonder that Chris has been less than concerned about receiving forgiveness from the public; when he has clearly already received it from the one who matters most. She gave him a pass. She said it was OK. That he should be successful and popular and celebrated, even after he almost killed her…even after he tore up a dressing room at Good Morning America…even after he allegedly tore a phone away from a female fan that snapped a picture, just last week…we’re not supposed to care about any of that, because she doesn’t.

Rihanna has gone on record that she is not a role model. She has stated, repeatedly, that she resents the responsibility thrust on young stars to be social trendsetters. Here’s the thing; they are. Rihanna knew that when she signed up for fame. She utilized it when influential hits like “Umbrella” spawned thousands of “Rihanna haircuts” and helped her sell out stadiums. Only when its inconvenient does she resent all the hype, all the eyes and all the influence.

I will concede that, despite my personal opinions about domestic violence, it’s ultimately a deeply private matter. The way in which a battered woman is able to piece her life back together is her business. Despite the fame, Robyn Fenty is a private citizen. What she does behind closed doors and with whom is none of my business.

Rihanna, however, is a public figure and her music is absolutely my business. The messages she sends in her music are absolutely her fans’ business. She brought her private business into her music business, and now she is asking us to pay for it. She’s asking us to consume material that accepts violence. She’s giving power to the legions of misguided girls wearing T-shirts saying, “You Can Beat Me Up”.

She’s trying to turn us on with the visual of her in bed with Chris.  Unfortunately, the only visual in my mind is that swollen faced, black-eyed girl with bite marks on her arms and finger impressions across her throat.

They remember too. The young fans who think Rihanna is the strongest, most beautiful, most confident woman they have ever seen. They remember what she went through, and they’re watching her say it’s “not that serious.” If the man is cute enough, or talented enough, or sexy enough when he “blows out your candles” it’s worth being slapped around a little. If it’s good enough for Rihanna, it’s good enough for them. That’s the crime in the release of these singles. That’s the crime of these two famous young adults.

The one and only collaboration that should have ever seen the light of day is a public service announcement on the gravity of domestic violence. Short of that, I’m not buying a thing these two are selling. How about you?

Chris Brown Accused of Stealing Woman’s iPhone

Singer Chris Brown was reportedly leaving Miami nightclub Cameo with rapper Tyga in a black Bentley, when a woman began to take pictures of him with her iPhone. Brown then snatched the phone from her hand, said “B*tch, you ain’t going to put that on no website,” and drove away.

While charges have yet to be filed, authorities have listed the crime as one count of robbery by sudden snatching. This felony could cause many problems for Brown, who has yet to complete his 5 year probation period for the assault of ex-girlfriend Rihanna. Other sources say that the reason Brown became angry was because he did not want Rihanna to see pictures of him with other women, as this would ruin any chance of reconciliation with the pop star.

Rihanna’s Producer Says Chris Brown Collaboration was Her Idea

Rihanna’s producer The-Dream has spoken out in defense of the pop star’s decision to collaborate with Chris Brown on her two new records “Turn It Up (Remix)” and “Birthday Cake (Remix).” The producer says that he too was shocked by Rihanna’s decision, but in the end, supports her all the way.

“Not only do we work together, but [Rihanna] is a friend of mine,” says The-Dream. “And it’s like, ‘You wanna do something? Then cool, let’s do it.’” He goes on to say that fans should accept the fact that Rihanna has forgiven Chris Brown, and move on. ” The true thing really is to forgive, and you want to believe in people.”

Do you think there is a difference between “forgiveness” and selling out? Or is The-Dream right…and we should all just move on?

 


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