In an interview with the Guardian in the UK, he spoke about the transfer of soul from the R&B genre to artists who you would expect to be more pop in the US, and how black artists have in turn adopted a more pop sound. He spoke on the genre he considers himself to be a part of, saying:
“It’s called rhythm and blues; they just took the blues out of it for so long.
“What’s crazy is that blacks can’t do soul records any more,” he said. “We love Adele singing it, but Beyoncé singing it? No, the tempo’s too slow, gimme the club hit. Now the blacks in America are responsible for the pop records, and everybody else is singing soulful records. It’s weird to me. We’re pigeonholed over there.”
On this, The Dream is absolutely right. This is an issue we talk about a lot, asking what is it that’s so unique about the Adeles, the Amy Winehouses, and the Duffys—basically soulful white singers from the UK that make a killing in the US—is it just that their sound is unexpected based on their looks and consumers go crazy over it? Is that what black artists are trying to do now by taking over the pop scene?
A friend just texted me this weekend asking me what was the deal with Chris Brown’s CD, saying he’s not R&B anymore, he’s strictly pop. That explained my confusion with his Grammy performance this year. But even Usher dabbled with the pop sound a bit on his last album, and no one would argue against the charge that Rihanna and Beyonce are extra heavy on the pop and light on the soul. The question is, is that the type of music these singers want to do or do they make this type of music because it’s the only music they can sell? There are obviously several black entertainers who have a soulful sound, but they’re not the ones getting the mainstream shine.
What do you think? Is it impossible for soulful black artists to have mainstream success in the US?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.