Female R&B Then and Now

Natale Fiocchi, Opinions Editor

Time forces culture change, and over the decades, music has changed with it, ushering in new artists and their unique styles along the way.

A new style of music that originated in the 1950s and has evolved since then is R&B, which refers to a music style that developed from and incorporated electric blues, as well as gospel and soul music. By the 1970s, rhythm and blues was used as a blanket term for soul and funk.

Something that makes this genre unique compared to others is that from its origination up until this day, it has had a very strong female-based community.

A couple well-known artists that made this style what it is today include Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill. These artists developed a style around the original genre’s focus of rhythm and blues, which can be heard in the raw sounds and flow of “Saving All My Love For You” by Whitney Houston, “Rhythm Nation” by Janet Jackson, “Izzy Izzy Ahh” by Missy Elliott and “Doo Wop” by Lauryn Hill.

Whitney Houston is most famous for her song “I Will Always Love You.” She has had numerous hits throughout her career and set the foundation for the female R&B artists today. Houston’s sound has an upbeat feel that brings her sorrowful lyrics to life. Even when singing something sad, her smooth vocals make the listener forget the pain.

Lauryn Hill, known for hits such as “Doo Wop” and “Killing Me Softly,” is much like Houston in the sense of how their voices come across to the listener– smooth and soulful but resilient.

Some artists that take a different spin on the sound would be Janet Jackson and Missy Elliott. Jackson, without needing to be said, is iconic, a performer. The way she can take over the stage has inspired so many artists today to do the same. For example, Beyonce has turned into the modern day queen of the stage. Besides her voice, Jackson’s performance and stage presence is something no one could forget.

Missy Elliott is an R&B woman with a tough side. Her lyrics and style are something to which people would compare men’s hip-hop or rap. Elliott’s career has exemplified her feminist ethics, giving credit to the strong women of the world and the fierce bonds of sisterhood. She has a strong badass attitude that sets her apart from the rest.

There would be no R&B without these legends who inspire today’s generation of R&B artists. These artists have evolved R&B into a soul and funk-influenced pop music that originated as disco faded from popularity. Now even more female artists are getting recognized in this field.

Popular R&B females today include Alicia Keys, Tinashe, Jhene Aiko and Kehlani. These ladies have a solid R&B style to their tracks with a more modern version of soul added to their sound. They do this by incorporating the jazz and blues background music along with their own. Some popular tracks by them include “No One” by Alicia Keys, “Thug Cry” by Tinashe, “Comfort Inn Ending” by Jhene Aiko and “The Way” by Kehlani.

A new upcoming artist Kehlani has something that will set her apart from the rest of the females. She combines the soul sound of Lauryn Hill with the lyric flow of Missy Elliott and the stage performance of Janet Jackson. She has it all– traits from iconic R&B artists that she has twisted in a way to reach today’s audience.

She will be someone to watch out for as the years progress.

As evolution in R&B shows, music is never lost or forgotten. New artists allow themselves to be shaped and influenced by the tracks of the past. It’s even more inspiring to see females empower each other year after year.

If you haven’t given R&B a try, these women, past and present, should give you reason enough to listen.