Odds & Ends and Random Thoughts
If your read my piece on R&B a couple of days ago, you may be interested in a much more literate discussion of the subject written back in 2011 by Jozen Cummings for ‘The Awl.’ It’s long and deep, so I’ve extracted some key graphs that mostly parallel my own thinking on the subject. The full piece can be found at the link at the bottom. Anyway, here’s the jest of Cumming’s piece:
Two new projects are sparking a lot of discussion right now about the current state of R&B. The first is by The Weeknd, a mysterious singer (or group?) who has enjoyed a quick rise to critical-darling status since releasing the free debut album House of Balloons last week. The second is by Frank Ocean…
[T]he two acts are getting joined together as poster children for what’s being called a new wave of R&B. The terms being thrown around to describe this new wave are “hipster R&B”
I’ve listened to both albums, and both are excellent… But through my countless listens to both albums, there’s one thing I’m not hearing—R&B. Not even the hipster variety.
It’s not so much that the term “hipster R&B” is inaccurate… Calling it “hipster R&B” is a nice way of saying it’s R&B that white people like, and here’s my problem with that: It’s myopic, lazy, and it sounds to me like a form of musical segregation that’s not entirely based on genre.
Here’s a proposal—how about we call it “nappy-headed pop”? If that sounds even slightly politically incorrect or lazy, then you understand my frustrations with the term “hipster R&B.” It’s not with the term “hipster”; it’s with any hipster or white critic labeling a black artist “an R&B artist” just because he or she sings a little…
Of course, R&B should be allowed to evolve. Not everything needs to sound like an extension of the Motown and Stax tree or like it belongs on Quiet Storm radio formats… Chris Brown’s new album F.A.M.E. is a prime example of this evolution. Listen closely: Are we really listening to R&B or are we listening to pop? Different ears, different opinions, I’m sure; but if we can’t all agree on it being R&B, then why would we categorize it as R&B or compare it to other R&B albums in the first place? My guess, probably because he’s black….
All this automatic categorization of black artists who sing harkens back to the social roots of the R&B genre. Before R&B was even called R&B, the record industry and magazines like Billboard categorized it as “race music,” shorthand for any black artists who sang with a backbeat behind them. For years, white artists who made similar music never had to worry about being designated as “race music” until 1958, when Billboard began using “R&B” instead. The switch made it possible for acts like the late, great Teena Marie and current artists like Robin Thicke to chart in the R&B category. Unfortunately, many critics still referred (and refer) to those artists with the term “blue-eyed soul,” which is a nice way of saying they’re white singers that black people like. Equally hackneyed is calling black singers who white people like “hipster R&B”—or, for that matter, “nappy-headed pop”.
But what I am urging is that we not be so quick to categorize all black singers as R&B—because what starts to happen then is we cut off the opportunity to have a real discussion about R&B as a genre…
Let’s listen to the music carefully, place the albums in their proper categories (if you’re even into that sort of thing), and then discuss based on what we hear, not what we see.
Car Key Fob Replacement
Here’s something that may come in handy for some of you whose car key fobs might stop working.
The key fob remote for my Lexus stopped working a week ago, and I first thought I’d just get a new one. But when I called the dealer I was told a new remote would cost $259 plus $69 to have it programmed. Yikes!
I then started checking around online for a better price, and learned that my problem might just be a bad battery. Figuring that I had nothing to lose, I ordered a new key fob battery from keyless.com for $3.49 + $1.16 tax & shipping.
When it arrived in the mail today I went online for to learn how to install it, and found this video on youtube:
Bingo, it worked! I’m back in business for less than $5.