B.B. King dies, and then, three days later, Bessie Smith is resurrected by Queen Latifah , via HBO Movie Special. The Blues is on everyone’s minds now. For the next few weeks, we will more than likely witness a spike in music downloads of archived recordings recently released. Hashtags with “The Thrill is Gone” will be posted all over social media. Bessie Smith will even make her first debut on Yahoo’s Most Trending Topics List. In a few months, all major award ceremonies, in particular, the Grammys, will pay tribute to Mr. King as his image appears in a slideshow among other fallen stars. Blues, America’s most artistically prized possession, will shine again- temporarily. Americans will acknowledge its historical importance, but just like anything old, and what some might consider outdated, Blues will return to the underground, where it thrives among its loyal fans and intrigued enthusiasts. But honestly, how many people my age are checking for the next Millie Jackson project? Not too many. Twenty years from now, will we envision the same outcome for R&B/ Soul music?
Nine years ago, rapper, Nas, proclaimed that Hip-hop was dead. He believed that there were no longer any true representatives of Hip-hop’s music and culture in mainstream. Powerfully written and delivered verses were traded in for catchy, and at times, relatively meaningless hooks. Songs that exposed problematic environments of the forgotten were replaced with the exploitation of the carelessness, over-sexuality, and violence. Now, R&B/Soul has reached a similar crossroad within its outcome. Mainstream has found a way to slowly mold R&B/Soul into R&B Pop. Although some may consider most soul music timeless, just like anything else based on popularity, it has been argued that R&B/Soul has run its course.
When was the last time you witnessed a Soul music artist win in the “Album of the Year” category at the Grammys? When was the last time you saw a Soul artist rated as number one on a multi-genre based chart? How often do you hear of Soul artists packing out arenas on a regular basis? No worries…. I’ll wait.