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One of the defining moments in Dreamgirls is when Curtis (Jamie Foxx) tells Deena (Beyoncé) that the reason why she was chosen to sing lead was because her voice had no personality. No depth. Very easy to manipulate. And that my friends is why White artists are succeeding better in R&B than Black artists. In 2013, not one Black artist had a number one single on Billboard’s Top 100 chart all year. And if you look further, the most successful rapper in 2013 was White. Now don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with it, if the product is up to par. But let’s be honest here, if Kendrick Lamar made “Same Love” would it have had the same recognition? If John Legend made “Blurred Lines,” would it have been number one for 12 straight weeks on Billboard’s Top 100? Probably not. So why are the Justin Timberlakes and Robin Thickes succeeding more in R&B, while the Tyreses and the Ne-Yos are becoming non-existent?
White Artists Make Black Art Comfortable for Middle America: If you would’ve asked a soccer mom from Boulder, CO where ‘twerking’ originated from, I bet ‘Miley Cyrus’ would be her answer. Granted, I doubt the soccer mom would know who DJ Jubilee is. Miley Cyrus basically pulled what I like to call a ‘Kidz Bop.’ If you don’t know what ‘Kidz Bop’ is, it’s an annual album with kids singing the child friendly version of the current popular songs. Instead of a song, Miley danced the ‘kids’ version of twerking. This makes Middle America feel very cool and not threatened. Yes, threatened. Do you think that soccer mom would rather see Robin Thicke or Ne-Yo sing an R&B classic? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. A 6ft tall black man, gyrating in a room full of soccer moms would be as welcoming as snow in Atlanta. Even in the 60’s, M.A. was pissed at Chuck Berry and praising Elvis. It’s all about being comfortable. The mirror effect. It’s cool because that artist looks like me.
White Men Got Rhythm: The age old stereotype is that White people have no rhythm. Which if you go to any frat party, that would prove to be true. Sorry, not really. For every 10 White people, one of them has rhythm. And just like a car accident in the middle of the highway, we have to look. It’s like we expect Usher to be a great singer/dancer because he’s Black (OMG Becky look at all these stereotypes). However, when Justin Timberlake does it, we are amazed. Even though if you paid attention to his last two albums, it was just recycling of his previous work. But we ate it up because he stayed on beat. The same goes for Robin Thicke. We wouldn’t be impressed if John Legend mimicked Marvin Gaye, but Robin though, had us requesting that song on the hour, every hour. The White man probably can’t jump but he can hit his wobble with the rest of us.
So are White artists really making better R&B music than Black artists? No, but they are great at mimicking it. And, they do have a bigger and better platform than Black artists. Don’t believe me, turn on your favorite Pop radio station, and within the hour count the number of Black artists being played. Don’t worry, I’ll wait. You really think Monica and Sevyn Streeter are getting played on 103.7 Kiss Fm, when Miley and Katy Perry are making the same tracks? I mean I listened to Justin Bieber’s new album and really thought it was Chris Brown singing. (Yes I listen to the Biebs, I like that Gangsta music). My final thought is this, will White artists continue to dominate in R&B? Nope. I see it as a trend. And we all know, trends die. Remember Vanilla Ice? Jon B? Informer? And a year or two from now Macklemore will be in the same boat. Yes it sucks that no Black artists were dominating the charts in 2013. However, with the return of Beyoncé, Pharrell, and a slew of others, that trend too, shall die. -Pooh Bailey