Usher has been a staple of the RnB genre since the early 1990s, and now he’s continuing to cement his legacy.
In the caption of a TikTok posted this Friday (Mar 10), Usher says he’s on his way to “wake up RnB.” The “Climax” singer walks through his home in a lavish bathrobe and slippers in the video. The cheeky caption, of course, alludes to a slip in the quality of modern RnB music that many industry heavyweights have been commenting on lately.
Diddy Starts a Fire
The conversation was seemingly kicked off by P Diddy, who has produced for top RnB acts like Mary J Blige and Mariah Carey. Back in August last year, he held an IG live conversation with Blige, Kehlani, and Timberland to discuss the state of RnB. During this, he made a bold statement. “R&B is muthafuckin’ dead as of right now,” the New York mogul said.
He continued, “No, no, no. It’s a feeling. You gotta be able to sing for R&B, and then you gotta tell the truth. R&B is not a hustle. This shit is about feeling your vulnerability.” He went on to further explain what he feels is missing from the current RnB. “I don’t wanna hear all this bullshit […] It’s our fault for accepting anything less for anybody getting on a mic. I feel like there was a death of R&B singing, and I’m a part of bringing that shit back!”
It was a sentiment that garnered plenty of pushback from social media and musical peers alike. During the live, Timberland disagreed with Diddy’s take and sided with the artists of today. Although, when prompted, he struggled to list artists who can sing without auto-tune, which Diddy used to illustrate his point.
One singer that stood up vocally against the claims of RnB being dead is Chris Brown. As always, Chris spoke bluntly about his opposition to the idea of RnB being a dead genre. He posted a lengthy rant on his Instagram story laced with explicative, blaming the music industry for failing to promote talented singers.
“WHENS THE LAST TIME YOU HEARD A SLOW SONG ON THE RADIO???? NI**AS SAYING R&B IS DEAD… RESPECTFULLY SHUT UP,” he typed. “People now a days want fast food instead of a real meal… DONT BLAME THE REAL SINGERS OUT HERE BEKUZ WHAT CHANNELS DO PEOPLE HAVE TO SEE MUSIC VIDEOS BET DAMN SURE DONT NIETHER DOES MTV. AND THEN THE INDUSTRY BE FORCING SH*T ON THE PEOPLE WHEN THE REAL MUSIC LOVERS KNOW THAT SH*T IS GARBAGE.”
😭😭😭 Chris brown didn’t joke with those clowns talkin about “Who killed R&B “😭😭🗑
Who’s puff btw? 😂 pic.twitter.com/ehNoWm1aA8
— ZEUS 💀💀 (@Dominic_zeus) August 20, 2022
Dupri And “Confessions 2”
However, despite all the pushback, Diddy isn’t the only famed producer that sees a decline in the genre. In a 2020 interview with BBC News, Jermaine Dupri said there is a “big gap” left to be filled by the return of RnB. In the interview, Dupri spoke highly of Usher’s upcoming project, “Confessions 2,” and placed his hope in the album to bring RnB back to relevancy.
“But if Usher can come back and we do what we gotta do with the album, and it pops off, somebody has to safeguard it and make sure that they say that it’s R&B,” Dupri added. “Because if they don’t, and it gets big, then it’s gonna trend to the left, and somebody’s gonna call it a pop album.”
In addition to this, Dupri revealed that the steady decrease in commercial success for RnB music is the reason why “Confessions 2” has been delayed. But with artists like summer Walker achieving a number-one billboard debut and selling over 160k album units with still over it, there may still be hope for RnB to take back some pop culture relevance.
Usher has been keeping busy in recent years, despite the lack of a new album. The 44-year-old has primarily been occupied with his Las Vegas residency. The viral “My Way” show is extremely successful, having a complete sold-out last year. In addition to this, 15 new dates have been added to Usher’s 2023 schedule.
Aside from his time in Las Vegas, Usher caught the attention of the internet with his Tiny Desk concert. The set included iconic hits like “You Make Me Wanna,” “U Don’t Have to Call,” and “Nice & Slow.” Fans old and new highly praised Usher’s amazing live vocals and musicality. The discussion even snowballed into a possible Superbowl performance and comparisons to other successful male acts, namely Chris Brown.
Chris Brown, Usher, & Ne-Yo were the holy trinity of dancin ass r&b niggas😂😂
— Mr. Igwe & The Big Steppers (@aj_igwe) March 11, 2023
i miss those days when Chris brown and usher really gave us classics.😒
— MacD (@MacD_Ug) March 11, 2023
MJ Usher & Chris Brown is like MJ Kobe and LeBron if that makes sense https://t.co/1WvBQgAysn
— itsladytruth 🌈💛🍦💦🍑😈🎟 (@nastygirltoya) March 9, 2023
Usher honestly would be a good Super Bowl pick pic.twitter.com/u8V6KTZgAO
— Notorious TJB 🧚🏾♂️✨ (@TyBeVibin98) March 10, 2023
also, to confirm something i’ve always known, last night proved with absolute certainty that usher could headline the superbowl with EASE and anyone who says otherwise is a fucking dunce. https://t.co/rxeu9fjshd
— detective diva (@paige_me0wster) March 4, 2023
There’s certainly something to back up his claim of waking up RnB.
Written by Dreema Carrington