Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Play Another Slow Jam, This Time Make It Sweet

What happened to the art of the slow dance? The anticipation/end-of-the-night club build up? The mix tapes/CDs gifted to significant others? The goosebumps on your arms when the bass in your favourite slow jam dropped? And I'm not talking about bubbling in a back corner against a wall to some Beres, or solo-two-stepping to Rihanna...I'm specifically referring to the collection of songs that made it near impossible to not want to have an intimate connection with someone.

What happened to the SLOW JAM?

Luther. Keith. R Kelly. Brian. Aaron. Maxwell. Babyface. Dru. Jon. Marvin. Anita. Otis. Curtis. Sade. Just the sound of any of those single names makes you want to raise that hand and....shiver! Because their songs were that sweet. Always. All it took was one bar of an intro, and the vibe would hit.

I was born in the late 70s, and really grew to appreciate this music in the late 80s/early 90s. I can't say I've been very impressed since then. I've heard a few great ballads here and there...but sweet slow jams are few and far between.

Let's try these names: Lloyd. Trey. Chris. Waka. Nicki. How's that effect? Interestingly enough, those are 5 of the artists on Billboard's Top 100 R&B/Hip Hop charts this week. It's the end of a decade, but I can't say there's any significant R&B music that has defined this era.

This week in 2000, Avant, Erykah Badu, Musiq, Destiny's Child, and Mya were amongst the artists with the Top 10 R&B Hip Hop Songs.

This week in 1990, it was Whitney Houston, Ralph Tresvant, Tevin Campbell, Levert, and Hi-Five making the top of that list.

In December 1980 it was Stevie Wonder, Teddy Pendergrass, Kool & the Gang, Asford & Simpson.

This week in 1970, James Brown, the Supremes, Aretha Franklin (x2), Gladys Knight, and The Jacksons were charting.

And now...back to the end of 2010, and Waka Flocka.

Perhaps this is due to the influx of hip hop artists, where the category is broader and there are a variation of R&B and hip-hop songs to select from. I definitely can't downplay the role of Rick Ross or Willow Smith on the Billboard chart this week. Their songs are hot--for whatever reason--and people are obviously feeling them. Twista. Wiz Khalifa. It's their time.

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I truly believe that the newer songs can't compare to the mood and the vibe and the passion of the old school tracks. I'm particularly partial to the songs of the 1990s. The artists of the 90s tried desperately to seduce you the listener, musically, and visually. They made sure to craft only the best lyrics and phrases, and out-love one another. It was cool to be smooth. It was cool to be alluring. It was cool to sing your heart out, sing about your heart, and actually express love...beg and plead...and it was addictive!

Nobody's Supposed to Be Here / End of the Road / Freak Me / I Have Nothing / Another Sad Love Song / Giving Him Something He Can Feel / Spend My Life With You / In My Bed / I Wanna Know / Let's Chill / I'll Give All My Love to You / Breakin' My Heart / Someone to Love / Anniversary / Not Gon Cry / Again / Who Can I Run To / Tell Me What You Want Me To Do... etc / etc / etc

You could sense that desperation! You could hear that begging! You could FEEL that bassline. You can't really do that anymore.

I don't have any grand philosophies on this epidemic. I don't listen to enough R&B on a regular basis to even know about the phenomenal artists who are currently pushing their music...and just not getting the same airtime and love as Neyo or Mary J.

I do know that I miss the FEELING that R&B used to give me. I missed the raw emotion and the vulnerability of the artists. I miss REAL singers and I'm tired of the poppyshows. I miss anticipating that slow dance, and knowing that the DJ could easily line up 5-10 songs, and no one would be anxious to rush outta that club the second Vybez Kartel was done playing.

They would dance until the lights came on. They'd hold on tight. They had the music to facilitate romance, because that was the standard.

I'd like to see the era of GOOD R&B music come back. Chart-topping R&B music. Music that will eventually stir up new memories, the way these songs still do...

"Comforter" - Shai


"Feenin" - Jodeci


"Can You Stand the Rain" - New Edition

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