Contemporary R&B music encompasses an eclectic blend of pop, soul, funk and hip hop elements. Artists such as Alicia Keys, Beyonce and Usher have enjoyed considerable success within this genre.
The best R&B songs feature soulful singing against an infectious beat, often including elements of jazz, funk, disco and doo-wop.
Rhythm and Blues
R&B music has evolved through time to incorporate elements from many other musical genres, making it one of the most beloved forms today. Originating in 1940s America and evolving ever since then, rhythm and blues has taken on various elements from jump blues, big band swing, jazz, gospel, boogie and other styles since. Rock ‘n roll was born alongside it but later its influence spread into rockabilly via white musicians such as Elvis Presley and Bill Haley who introduced their own significant changes that transformed into more rockabilly genre than original R&B form today.
R&B became increasingly popular, prompting record labels specializing in this genre to emerge, such as Chess, Stax, King Vee-Jay Okeh and Motown. These labels promoted black artists who had previously been neglected by mainstream outlets, while simultaneously helping pave the way for greater acceptance of African American culture in America.
Later decades saw R&B evolve once more musically, evolving from its roots in blues music into soul and funk styles that differed significantly from classic R&B blues music. This form is sometimes known as Contemporary R&B; its sound includes elements from hip hop, disco and dance pop electronic music genres.
Contemporary R&B often features soulful singing over a strong backbeat, along with classic R&B’s chord progressions, acoustic piano and horn sections – but in which synthesizers often replace horns while bass lines may contain looped drum beats instead. This style blends elements from different musical genres into its soundscape – sometimes making it hard to identify between classic and contemporary R&B styles.
R&B music, commonly referred to as R&B/funk or soul music, can be difficult to define precisely. As one form of early 20th-century Black American musical artform that evolved postwar communities with its roots in gospel, blues, jazz and folk elements. Influences from Sam Cooke, Etta James and today’s pop, funk and hip hop artists exist within R&B genre.
Rooted in Black culture, R&B soon broke through color barriers to become popular across America. Motown Records in Detroit offered commercially polished sounds featuring glamorous singers and propulsive rhythm sections; Stax Records in Memphis fused Southern blues with R&B; these musical experiments would eventually give birth to funk and disco music styles.
The 1970s witnessed an increased use of synthesizers, leading to a new style of funk music with Afrocentric rhythms and more experimental song structures. This change also contributed to disco’s rise as an amalgamation of both styles funk and R&B music.
In the 1980s, contemporary R&B continued to develop by drawing elements of rock and pop to form its signature style: sleek production styles with drum machine rhythms and lush vocal arrangements reminiscent of jazz, funk and hip hop sounds.
Artists like James Brown, George Clinton and Sly & the Family Stone had an immense effect on this transition of genre. Over time, the sensual sounds of funk eventually evolved into the seductive sounds of soul music.
Funk music represents the rawest form of rhythm and blues music. Deriving from jazz and African musical traditions, its origins lie somewhere between jazz and R&B traditions; many refer to funk as the dirtiest R&B style due to its use of deep electric bass lines, interlocking webs of short guitar chords, blaring horns and dynamic highly syncopated polyrhythms; groove being its hallmark musical characteristic.
History of R&B can be traced to the Great Migration, when many Black families moved from rural areas in the South and Midwest to urban centers in the Northeast and Midwest. When these migrants settled, they brought with them their music: initially race music which later evolved into rhythm and blues or R&B during World War Two; it later morphed into soul, funk and pop, becoming contemporary R&B music – its legacy still seen today!
In the 1970s, R&B musicians experimented with more danceable styles of R&B music. This led to the development of funk music – an integral component of disco culture at that time – as well as its influence on rap and hip hop genres that now belong to contemporary R&B genre.
Usher, Beyonce, TLC and Chris Brown are some of the most prominent modern R&B performers, often drawing inspiration from funk, jazz and hip hop music styles. Funk is often employed within contemporary R&B as a vehicle to convey social justice messages; one such instance being Marvin Gaye’s song “What’s Going On”, which addressed police brutality as well as other forms of social injustice; it became one of the top R&B singles on both Hot Soul Singles and Billboard charts.
Although R&B music was initially associated with African Americans, its appeal quickly extended across racial boundaries and attracted white listeners as well. This popular crossover led to R&B becoming a general term encompassing soul and funk music as well. The name itself refers to four-beat measures or bars featuring backbeat accents on second and fourth beats; its “blues” part refers to lyrics with often sad or melancholic melodies; and the overall mood created through lyrics or melodies that create rhythm.
Modern R&B has also been heavily influenced by hip hop since it first emerged in the 1980s, which led to it being combined with it in various forms by artists like Bryson Tiller and Drake in their music. Contemporary R&B can be identified by slick electronic production styles with drum machine rhythms as well as lush vocal arrangements that feature electronic record production styles.
In the mid-1990s, contemporary R&B reached its commercial peak, with artists such as Mariah Carey, TLC and Girl Group of the Year winners SWV reaching international success and chart dominance. Additionally, this period witnessed the popular girl group trend exploding – such as Destiny’s Child, En Vogue and BellBivDeVoe (comprised of former New Edition members) becoming immensely successful groups.
By the end of the decade, hip hop music had made its way across to England and into a music subgenre known as 2Step which combined R&B-style singing with breakbeat and jungle syncopation for an exciting listening experience. A similar fusion occurred again during the 2000s as artists such as Usher, Missy Elliott and Lil’ Jon crossed over from hip hop into R&B music before breaking through into popular pop music success.
Rap music has quickly become an influential cultural force, shaping language, fashion and dance across a broad spectrum of society. Its lyrical themes often convey pain, struggle and joy as experienced by African Americans; its themes can also be used to describe social injustice or political issues; it even influences modern vernacular which must be appreciated fully for full appreciation of this genre.
Rhythm and blues was first popularly developed as an expressive musical form within urban Black communities in the 1940s. This genre combined elements from blues, jazz, jump blues, Louis Jordan (known for pioneering jump blues) and The Supremes were early artists of R&B music, initially marketing it to Black audiences; yet soon breaking through this barrier and becoming an American art form.
In the ’80s, R&B underwent another transformation and began integrating elements from funk, pop, disco and hip hop music into its sound. This amalgamation created subgenres such as alternative and progressive R&B; new jack swing was another sound created at this time; this genre blended hip hop productions with R&B songs of that period to form what would later become typical 90s R&B sounds.
Although the 1990s saw the decline of classic rhythm and blues, its influence remained evident on genres like disco and funk. R&B even inspired the development of 2Step; this new UK garage subgenre mixes R&B-style singing with breakbeat and jungle rhythms for an enjoyable mellow sound that lacks hip-hop soul’s hardcore urban “grinding” sound.