Did you hear about the Weeknd’s billboard sweep this past Sunday? Well, with eight wins he’s not making it easy for any of his fellow musicians! 2016 wasn’t the first time rhythm & blues had pushed mainstream boundaries; legendary artists such as Curtis Mayfield, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross to iconic artists who continuously crossed genres such as Prince and Missy Elliott managed to get some of the most mind-bending sounds of their respective generations on the radio. Inspiring musicians to make R&B their vehicle for sonic exploration and they demanded attention. Artist such as the Weeknd with his nightmarish seductions; Solange Knowles, Miguel’s laid back perspective on music , Frank Ocean, Stacey Barthe, Blood Orange’s stylish retro dance-pop and many other artist; darkly crystalline RnB – inflected electronic music. Some of these musicians were arriving through traditional RnB channels (usually the black performers) and others through traditional indie-rock outlets (usually the white ones). They were unknowing co-conspirators, not a unified movement. That’s partly why this wave of R&B innovations felt so big: Black musicians were experimenting with traditionally white sounds at the same time white musicians were experimenting with traditionally black sounds, all of them blurring together to create alternative RnB.
Let’s compare and contrast two of the biggest artist in alternative RnB. After years ghost-writing and waiting inthe background, Miguel hopped onto the scene in 2010 and has since then undertaken something like an image revamp, improving his overall output at the same time. The Weeknd blossomed into fame in early 2011 on a hipster horse-powered frenzy of hype mostly down to the brilliant “House of Balloons” mixtape and a little bit of sponsorship from fellow Canadian homie Drake. Undoubtedly, both great artists in their own right but make no mistake; both artist aren’t making it easy for each other and with RnB slowly dying these two artist are definitely giving RnB more and more life!
Although both artist circle near the same subject matter, Miguel; having toed the contemporary RnB line for a year as he broke out, has become more experimental with the “Art Dealer Chic” EP series and then dropped the AMAZING “Kaleidoscope” followed up by “Wildheart” showcasing his clear growth and gradual improvement, however the Weeknd must be doing something right hence his eight wins. In conclusion alternative RnB can be perceived in so many amazing aspects but please believe it’s NOT all the same.