R&B enters era of new sound


Zoe Vongtau, News Editor

What was once a genre stereotypically catering to voices and audiences consisting of black women, now has opened its doors in invitation to an evolved demographic of artists and listeners.
Traditionally, R&B music, albums and songs have been written and performed by black people, stemming from the genre’s intrinsic connection to life struggles, adversity and tenacity.
In the past few years, though, the R&B scene has brought artists and songs different from the norm, and people have been eating it up.
Artists like Rex Orange County and Daniel Caesar have infiltrated the soulful genre, bringing individual twists and talents that redefine rhythm and blues.
Rather than producing only music, they are coupling their songs with visual art and videos that make the listening experience multi-dimensional.
Rex Orange County, a name many might only recognize as a feature on Tyler the Creator’s latest album, Flower Boy, makes it a point to weave teenage strife into the adult genre.
His debut album, Apricot Princess, released in April, and EP bcos u will never b free both feature songs that explore rejection, growth, insecurities and general happiness through the lens of a young adult.
At 19 years old, Rex, whose real name is Alex O’Connor, is making R&B more accessible to teenagers, who are drawn to the artists’ melodic riffs and use of unconventional instruments.
Daniel Caesar explores similar ideas in songs, although on a level more recognizable to listeners of traditional rhythm and blues.
Before his debut album, Freudian, dropped in late August, Caesar had only released singles and been featured on songs of rap artists.
Caesar’s album and past singles held themes of love, in its physical, emotional and psychological forms.
All of his songs, like those on the Pilgrim’s Paradise EP, have singular elements, like an organ or gospel-like choir, that separate him from mainstream Billboard charters.
Both O’Connor and Caesar have received some attention in the past two years, which led to the release of their debut albums and scattered features on the tracklists of larger artists.
Similar artists claiming to champion the new-wave of R&B, like Khalid and Xavier Omar, both lack experimentation in the lyrics, melodies and transitions of their albums.
For people hoping to join the crowd of R&B listeners, user playlists created on streaming apps can be tracklists of gem after gem.
Many of these smaller, developing rhythm and blues artists only seem to have released EPs, singles or features, and as their fan base grows, they release full-length albums for the demand.

The growth by these artists highlights the importance of supporting small artists on social media platforms and streaming sites.
Fan support on sites like Twitter, SoundCloud and Instagram oftentimes seems to be the driving force for their new releases.
In the next few years, the list of R&B artists is sure to grow, along with the diversity of the artists, which is a change that long-time listeners could welcome and celebrate.