What Do You Mean By R&B?

The labels that are put onto particular forms of music confuse me. One of the real nightmares for me as a DJ is when someone in their 30s staggers up under the influence of some alcoholic beverage and slurs, “Play some decent R&B, mate.” (or, to be fair, any other genre of music, from Garage to House, Rock to Hip Hop, Soul to Bubblegum, or Alternative to Rap.)

My usual response is something like, “Sure, what song would you like me to play?” This usually extracts a title or artist and very occasionally, both.

I find the range of music that any genre encompasses to be incredible. One of the widest music styles seems to be R&B which has included anything from Girls Aloud to Jay-Z.

I’m sorry, neither of these artists fit any REAL definition of R&B, which is a term that has been around, certainly since the 1960s and means Rhythm & Blues.  This would therefore include bands like The Yardbirds,  The Animals, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Creation, The Action and The Beatles. However, the term was coined as long ago as the 1940s and would also include early Motown,  Stax, Atlantic and other music that we would nowadays regard as classic soul. Even Sam Cook, Chuck Berry or Elvis Presley can be considered R&B. (So perhaps Rock and Roll is really R&B).

Jay-Z and some of the other modern rap and hip-hop artists could, at a pinch, be argued to be successors to artists like Wilson Pickett or Little Richard, although I doubt that they will be played, or even remembered, in 50 or 60 years time in the way that those R&B pioneers are today.

But Girls Aloud! R&B? Come on!

However, do the genre labels really matter? Not to me. If a song fits into the “groove” of the evening, it gets played.

But it does seem that the “label” is incredibly important to some people. Mostly, I believe, to 20 and 30 somethings who are desperately trying to show their peers (and kids) that they are still “cool and trendy”. But not yet old enough to realise that the amused embarrassment of “dad dancing” kicks in as soon as there is a younger person in the room.  I am quite amused when I watch these 20 and 30 somethings on the dance floor, especially at weddings and family occasions where 40 and 50 somethings simply don’t care about being trendy, are well aware that they are “dad dancing” and simply go for it. Those unfortunate 20s and 30s are doing exactly the same as their own dads, and aren’t aware of it – but the teenagers are.

It’s interesting that once the alcohol kicks in later in the evening, “trendiness” gets forgotten and these same people can metaphorically let their hair down and have a good time – to the cheesy anthems that they would rather die than admit to liking while they’re still sober.

Ride Safe


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