Fighting For The Soul Of R&B

At some point in the 1980s, the pop music genre known as R&B went crushingly, horrifyingly commercial, and became less traditional “soul” music than overproduced pap designed to be as inoffensive as possible to as wide a range of consumers as could be snookered into buying it. Then, in the mid-’90s, a new breed of talented young singers – the “neo-soul” movement, they were dubbed – began to revitalize the genre with original albums that picked up where artists like Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye had left off back in the ’70s. But the movement has stalled out, the neo-soul musicians are flying well under the pop culture radar, and slick commercial R&B is again dominating the charts. Still, there may yet be hope for serious soul musicians.