What Happened to R&B Male Vocal Groups?

I stumbled with an article written by Martin Fister. A good read.
R&B has always been the softer side of urban music, dealing with love and emotion, where hip-hop has always focused on political and street commentary. While the message of R&B has remained the same, the style of it has changed drastically over the last ten years.

Today, R&B makes extensive use of AutoTune, a technology that fits perfect pitch on artist vocals and allows vocal distortion. Going further, the ballad, which used to be the dominant form for R&B tracks, has been replaced by the club joint, popularized by artists like Chris Brown. And the most drastic change? There are no more R&B groups! Since its beginning, R&B has been defined by its vocal groups. The 1950s were packed with the street corner singing of Doo Wop groups like the Platters and the Flamingos. The banner was then taken up by The Temptations and The Four Tops in the 1960s and The O'Jays and The Spinners in the 1970s. The 1980s kept the sounds of groups alive with a wide variety of successes including The Tyme, Full Force, The Deele and The Force M.Ds.

The 1990s were defined by these groups, young men coming together for the love of the music. Just off the top of my head, I can quickly name: Riff, Guy, After 7, Entouch, Jodeci, Dru Hill, Playa, Profyle, Boyz II Men, All 4 One, Shai, Troop, Silk, H-Town, U.N.V., Hi-Five, Az Yet, Another Bad Creation, Bel Biv DeVoe, Mint Condition, Tony! Toni! Tone! And that's without even looking at artists that didn't dominate the charts. If I did this same thing today, I would have Day 26, a group formed on a reality TV show, and Pretty Ricky.

So I ask you, what happened to the R&B male vocal groups? Have young men and women forgotten what it means to sing together? In hopes of getting a better understanding of the question, I set out to ask the very artists for their opinions.

When asked about the group scene today, Anthony Fuller of Riff said, "Yea, we want to be able to give them singing and entertainment. A lot of things that's done now is basically entertainment. Even in the studios, a lot of things are programmed to where you sing one note and let the studio do the rest."

Following up, group mate Dwayne Jones said, "And you know, right now that's all you're hearing. Songs with the voice box and stuff like that, again, nothing wrong with that and that's cool. But what's actually missing is that nice three, four, five part harmony. Nice deep down soul in your gut type singing, you know we don't hear anybody begging anymore."

Both placed blame on the homogenizing sound of R&B caused by the AutoTune technology, and when you listen to the active groups today, you can see the presence. The sound of old features group harmonies, belting, pure singing. Today, it is hidden behind voice modifications and synthesizers. Seeking to find the blame for this change in music, I began to look for groups of old and find out their reasoning for taking time off or for breaking up.

According to Keith Mitchell of After 7, "It got frustrating pouring your heart and soul into a project and your record label drops the ball on records. So we lost confidence in the label and asked to be released. We didn't lose our record deal for all the public they should know that because it's a pretty unique situation and not many artists choose to walk away from labels but at the time, we did."

Expressing similar feelings, J.Poww of the group Universal Nubian Voices said, "Well after the second album, we were very disappointed with how the record was handled, as far as what singles were chosen, even the overall direction of the record. Had it been my choice there would have been a few more up-tempo, mid-tempo things and there would have been some other things that would have transpired as far as what would have been the first single. We left Maverick in 96 because of that. We weren't dropped."

From the various artists' opinions, it seems that the common thread was the labels. Artists find themselves forced into a niche or abused to the point where there music lost its soul. Their artistic expression is dictated by labels and the cause of these groups creation, the love of the music, is lost. However, these blames can't be put entirely on the labels. In the end, the labels are in the business to make money. Today, they see AutoTune based R&B music selling, and so they downplay the groups in order to sell more records. The consumers are causing the silence of R&B vocal groups as much as the labels. Until there's a proper demand for R&B groups, there won't be any interest from the labels in producing this kind of music again.

However, this leaves an interesting hole in the market. As Dwayne Jones from Riff said, "Growing up, we can go back a decade and say you know, Force MDs, Full Force. And then they can say, the Marvin Gayes and the Stevie Wonders, but coming up now in this century, that music is missing right now... there's a gap in between there. Because now, the kids, the only people who they actually know now is probably Chris Brown."

Today's market lacks the sound of real vocals to inspire another generation of kids to pursue music careers. While we as listeners can survive the dearth of R&B vocal groups today, can the industry survive it? Looking towards the future, R&B singer Case leaves us with an optimistic view, "Because I think music just goes around in a big circle. So I'm pretty sure it'll be back around to where it was. There were so many groups back then, and then it changed back to the solo artist and I figure it'll be back."

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/3105771

Shawn Stockman's Sing Off.

1- Final days of the fasting month. Most of my friends have already fled and I am still here in the office, reading blogs and trolling people right, left and center. In case I forgot, I would like to wish a prosperous celebration of Eid to everyone.  I will be celebrating Raya in KL this year, like every other year.

2- Have you watched Shawn Stockman's Sing Off? A singing competition featuring Acappella groups from all over the United States with Shawn Stockman, Ben Folds and Nicole Scherzinger (for season 1 and 2, Sara Bareillis will be taking her place for the third season) judging.

3- You wont be able to get the show here in Malaysia since no Malaysians are interested with an Acappella singing competition like Sing Off but you can still view the show via youtube. By the way, the third season will be starting on September 19th with 16 new groups competing for the championship. Cant freakin wait.

4- It is fascinating indeed to learn that one of the competing groups is called Urban Method. I seriously thought it was the Malaysian Urban Method. Remember that five piece RnB Hip Hop group that topped the charts with their hit single, Wajah Rahsia Hati? But this Urban Method is from Denver. Could Mahathir and co moved out of Malaysia and now based themselves in Colorado? What could have caused them to move out? Was it the dull Malaysian RnB scene? Haha. Unfortunately, this is a totally different group. Watch out for these cats.

5- The winner of the first season was a group called Nota and Committed championed the second. Nota played this percussive acappella (most probably due to their latino blood) which was not really my cup of tea while Committed was this gospel boys doing straight out RnB which was fun, until I thought that they can only do RnB. The harmonies were complex as fuck and individually, all the six singers got crazy vocal shits going on in their larynx especially the boombox guy. Well, after years of listening to african americans doing RnB and Acappella (read: BoyzIIMen, Azyet, All4One, Shai), it seems to me that there is nothing new and impressive with what Committed was doing.

6- For the second season, I was rooting for Street Corner Symphony, five white boys doing acappellas with all the rock vibes and shit. The group might not be vocally excellent and harmonically creative as Committed, but the capability to something extremely different but mainstream all at the same time, SCS deserved a standing ovation.   


Malaysian vocal groups or whats left of em anyway.

1- Malaysian urban vocal groups started way back, as early as the early 90s if you count Pancha Sitara out. I have to admit that I lacked the knowledge to write a proper thesis on the history of Malaysian vocal groups so I would not waste my time doing that.

2- As we all know, back in the states, the mighty goliath of a music called Rock was killed by Kurt Cobain and his seattle cohorts with a new music called grunge. In Malaysia, rock was killed by rap music. MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice wannabes were all over the place while the purists would resort to the more obscure NWA and Public Enemy.

3- Malaysian mainstream music scene was swarmed with rap groups from all over the place led by a trio of siblings calling themselves KRU. Then you got 4U2C, NICO, MSteen, Res2, Feminin and of course the more obscure Krash Kozz with their debut, New Jack The Street Beat which was released in 1993. While most of the acts concentrated with writing cheesy rhymes in malay, some of the above mentioned groups did produced songs centred around vocals and minimal harmony vocals. KRU for example produced an acappella song called Untukmu which was made famous by Feminin, most probably the first urban girl group from Malaysia.

4- Then enter Shades, the first mainstream vocal group to achieve success after years of honing their talent at the stairs of Central Market. Their acappella rendition of the classic, Malam, introduced acappella to a lot of new listeners in the 90s. Then there was KOOL. Remember them? A lot of people would associate them with dance music due to their hit song, Bebas, but if you would listen carefully to each of their songs in the debut, you would be surprised to learn that there were elements of new jack swing and RnB all over the place with complete 3 lines of harmonies on all of the songs. The group even added a fifth member to adhere to the discipline of harmony singing.

5- I believe it was during this time that more underground vocal groups started to emerge with Innuendo spearheading the movement. Vibe, Euphonious, SoulStreet, Surreal, Foreplay, Cest La Vie, Deep, Emberz of Soul, Quevox, Touchess and Signature just to name a few, swarmed the underground stages alongside other hiphop acts from Klang Valley.

6- The release of RuffEdge (formerly known as Vibe) and Voices of Ephonious (formerly known as Euphonious) split EP, Extreme Pleasure, reignited the interest in RnB vocal groups amongst the newer faces. The stage was swarmed once again with groups in the likes of Hearts of Mean, Soul Dinero, Flowwidus, First Edition, Quizziclez, Infinatez, Crescendo, Muzieclez, Quadrose, Siarra, Quest and Luscious, again just to name a few.

7- Then there was the death. I dont know how and I dont know why. The scene died.