How to Save Corporate Black Pop


We are in a crisis in corporate black music. We are flooded with music that relies too heavily on flashy tricks (hi-hat, that damn Roger Troutman inspired vocoder, poorly hidden soul samples) and not enough on little things like melody and harmony.

We are bombarded with pretty young things with paper thin voices over (admittedly) good tracks by producers who do one thing really well and don't do much else.

And we have reached the point of no return.

Who will save us?


"…for the right price, I can even make your shit tighter."

Raphael Saadiq, ladies and gentleman.

It has occurred to me as I listen to the new leaked Raphael Saadiq tracks and struggle to find any value in Janet's Discipline and Mariah's E=MC2, that in the hands of Ray Ray, these ladies could redefine their careers…or at the very least, make better music.

Ray Ray could give Janet the R&B makeover that we all thought janet. and The Velvet Rope foretold. I mean, folks, she's a Jackson. She's always been more convincing, more beguiling, more untouchable when she was in touch with that inner Motown.

And with Mariah, Ray Ray could force her to use those lower registers she just can't seem to figure out how to use properly (or at all). He could remind her that her best work, Daydream, worked because there was subtlety, great songwriting, and more emotional vocal work. She needs that back.

But why do I say this, folks?

If you listen to the leaked tracks, you'll hear things that have been missing from our bump and grind corporate black music scene like melody, real instruments, a bridge. Don't you love what you hear?

Raphael Saadiq also doesn't shout his presence as a producer. He has produced for Mary J. Blige, D'Angelo, Jaguar Wright, Joi Gilliam, Truth Hurts and Joss Stone (not sure why though, but that's another blog for another day), to name a few.

All different artists.  Different sounds, all.

Mary's I Found My Everything sounds nothing like Truth's Ready Now. D'Angelo's Untitled sounds nothing like Joi's I'm So Famous.

This is incredibly important.

Janet and Mariah have to regain their unique personalities. They may sell better because their music sounds like the last fifty-leven songs you've heard, but it doesn't really do them any artistic good to be lightweight black pop artists when they spent the bulk of the 90's redefining black pop music.

We call that regression or, as they say in the streets, bitin'.

Because Mariah's last 2 albums have sounded like music that Beyonce has been inflicting on the masses for the last decade. And we all know that Ne-Yo and Johnta Austin gave Janet an album that is essentially Ciara's Ciara: The Evolution, but dirtier.

Janet and Mariah are the most prominent examples of how corporate black music has fallen off. But they are also (all things being equal) the pinnacle of what can be good about corporate black pop. But left to their own devices, these aging divas have gone from leading the pack to nipping at their heels with half-baked music that works for chicks like Ciara and nem because … and this is key, folks … these new chicks have no real discernible talent or personality or vocal authority. They need the track to do all the work. 

But for artists like Janet and Mariah, putting them over a standard track does the opposite.  It buries all the things that make Janet and Mariah the artists that they are. 

If Jan and Mariah use Ray Ray and redefine and resuscitate their boring ass music, the lemmings will follow. Next thing you know Beyonce will be doing her most earnest Motown and Ciara will be poppin' and lockin' in slo-mo over strings.

Hey – there are always negatives that come with positives.

*This post inspired by my girl, Carletta. Thanks ma!*

About tlewisisdope

I write. I live in DC.
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