The Year In R&B: 2011

Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal 
In 2011, new artists became a wave of sorts in music. From the arrivals of the Weeknd, Frank Ocean (as a solo artist), and others, the sound was changing. A more moody, emo sound was born in R&B and it began to override the elements that made us love the genre in the first place. 2011 still had some music that we all loved and appreciated as R&B from artists like Tyrese and Joe, but the genre went through a shift for sure. Today, we look back at the shift of the genre and what 2011 brought us musically. Let's get into it.

In the year 2011, we were introduced to 3 new artists via mixtapes. The Weeknd with "House Of Baloons", Frank Ocean with "Nostalgia", and Jhene Aiko with "Sailing Souls". Out of Canada, The Weeknd's style was more of a croony, moody, sampled type of emo R&B. Frank broke away from Odd Future and hit us with a sound that was a heavily sampled flip of popular songs with a neo soul vibe. Some may remember Jhene Aiko from running around with B2K back in the early 2000s, but she gave up music to finish school then returned years later with a newer sound, a more atmospheric, emo R&B as well.

We also got albums from Kelly Roland with "Here I Am", who had a huge hit "Motivation" featuring  Lil Wayne. Her ex group member Beyonce was back with "4" to "Run The World" after her hiatus.
Bey also collaborated with Mary J. Blige on "How To Love A Woman", which was on her album "My Life II...The Journey Continues". Jagged Edge quietly released "The Remedy" after being away for a few years. Chris Brown gave us his usual mixture of R&B, pop & hip hop on F.A.M.E. A posthumous album "Lioness Hidden Treasures" of Amy Winehouse was dropped with unreleased songs and demos in aid of her foundation. Boyz II Men would released their 10th album "Twenty", celebrating 20 years since the release of thier debut album "Cooleyhighharmony" in 1991.

Dope joints that dropped in the year 2011:
Beyonce- Love On Top & Start Over
Chris Brown- Deuces & She Ain't You
Jhene Aiko- Stranger & You vs Them
The Weeknd- Wicked Games
Amy Winehouse & Nas- Like Smoke
Frank Ocean- Novacane
Lloyd- Lay It Down
Mya & Marques Houston- Love Me Some You
Jagged Edge- My Girl
Marsha Ambrosius- Hope She Cheats
Boyz II Men- Will You Be There
Adele- Turning Tables
Tyrese- Nothing On You

2011. Where do I begin? 2011, for me, began with some Late Nights and Early Mornings, then ended with me trying to Take Care of myself. Puns aside, I want to talk about two releases in detail: Marsha Ambrosius' debut album and Drake's magnum opus. Why? Because as different as the albums sound (Ambrosius takes a mix between contemporary R&B and neo-soul, while Drake goes for moody alt-R&B for a good portion of his album), they're quite similar. Ambrosius is deep and sincere as hell on Late Nights and Early Mornings, baring her everything for the audience to digest. I mean, "Far Away" is dedicated to a friend of hers who committed suicide

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Here Speed go again hyping up Take Care. He even calling it R&B when it's clearly a rap album with R&B cuts." And, in some ways, you'd be right. It is a rap album with R&B cuts. But, the overall feel has R&B written all over it, down to the braggy rap Drake employs. Nothing is straight up "rappity-rap" about Take Care and, because of Drake's use of Weeknd-like sounds, it helped usher in a new era in R&B. After the OVOXO collaborations, everyone and their mom wanted that moody R&B where they could talk about their feelings and hatred of sleeping alone. You can say that without 808s, there'd be no Drake. But, without Take Care (and, by extension, The Weeknd), you wouldn't have a lot of these artists out here.

OK, I lied. I've got to talk about a third project/collection of projects.

The Weeknd's original Trilogy: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence. When it dropped, it was like nothing I'd heard before. It took MJ and made it dirty ("D.D.," for instance, along with Weeknd's pseudo-MJ falsettos). It was the shit that you'd expect from some mix between Prince and David Ruffin. It was sexual, but it wasn't necessarily "sexy." It was powerful, but wasn't really devoted to "power," especially when you consider "power" in Weeknd songs from this era was usually fueled by drugs and bad decisions. It was emotional as fuck without really being full-on "emo."

It was the shit I listened to when I was clawing back through life throughout 2011, as I was, admittedly, on my Weeknd shit. Zonked out of my mind, confused, young, and could've been a statistic. I identified with the dark melodies, the disregard for self and others, and the desire to become something greater...even when everything was stacked up so you'd probably be just another fuck up.

I first got introduced to The Weeknd between Drizzle playing "D.D." when we're all drunk as fuck on Christmas morning coming back from a party and a young woman (who shall remain nameless here) telling me to check him out because she was reminded of me in some ways through his music. But, wherever the first time came from, when it entered my veins, I was hooked to the Canadian singer who "[used to have] the hair [and sang] about popping pills, fucking bitches [and] living life so trill."

If you want to see where some of my own musical influence came from, listen to Take Care and The Weeknd's Trilogy. If you want to hear some non-faded love songs, check out stuff from Marsha Ambrosius. And with that, I'll turn it back over to True to bring us home.

Outro By @TrueGodImmortal 
-2011 is a year that is hard to remember for me. I think the rest of the team summed up all of my personal memories musically, though the biggest surprise musically for me was the Tyrese album "Open Invitation". My favorite song from the year was "Stay", and being that I'm not a huge fan of Tyrese in general, that really said a lot. I wasn't on the Weeknd, Frank, Jhene or Beyonce wave during this year and I won't even pretend like I was. Their music is dope for the intended audience and that audience doesn't include me. However, 2011 will be remembered I'm sure for the shift in the genre and the sound evolving much more.



Popular Posts