Saturday, December 06, 2008

The rise and fall of the black singer

On the issue of race, three things strike me as I look over Rolling Stone's list of the top 100 vocalists: 1) black folks can sing; 2) they abandoned that talent for the lesser ability of talking rhythmically; and 3) their style was more assimilationist during Jim Crow and more countercultural since.

I spend most of my time documenting social problems among NAMs. It has to be done because mainstream data analysts are fundamentally dishonest. In fact, they are even liars about black superiority. Of the top 100 singers, 39 are black, and they are competing with not only white Americans but other English-language whites: Brits, the Irish, Canadians, and Australians.

Now, I haven't read the literature, but multicultis are so predictable, who needs to: black singing goes back to the slave days of surreptitious Gospel songs of liberation; entertainers were considered trashy people so blacks were allowed into the industry, etc., etc. I say nonsense. Blacks are naturally good at singing, period. Just yesterday, I walked into McDonalds and a minimum-wage black girl is singing like a bird. They're not hard to find.

So I've got a question for black folks: you've got the talent to produce the likes of Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, and you decide to start talking instead? Well, I'm sorry folks, but you made a mistake--Eminem does it better than y'all, and he sucks. You peaked with Ray Charles--and what a peak that was--but it's been nothing but slide ever since.

And black singers used to have class. Can you think of anyone classier than Nat King Cole? Guys like him just wanted to get into the club, but just as soon as that happened in 1965, black folks decided that they didn't want entry; they wanted to look like the guys who burned down the club. And so we end up with high-class mugs like Plies (in the photo) and we're supposed to celebrate this as art and progress. Sick and twisted times.


  1. Anonymous10:24 AM

    early hip hop was whimsical, not thuggish. it didn't turn thuggish until much later, and ironically, the earliest example of mainstream thuggish political hip hop was performed by a group that sold out their original sound.

    and say what u will about the quality or technical difficulty of the music, but it's what gets ppl moving at clubs around the world. if it didn't, it wouldn't get played. it even gets played in east asia where there are many regional hip hop artists.

    it's just empirical reality that youth in developed nations enjoy hip hop. u sound like an old geezer whining about the upstart kids. why don't u criticize heavy metal or something w/ the same amount of disgust?

    finally, as u already know, black ppl aren't the ones that made these artists megastars, it was white ppl. it was the middle class suburban white kid that wanted to rebel that made these artists world famous. why don't u go complain to them that they should listen to something else? blacks want to produce material that sells, and this is what sells.

  2. Anonymous11:16 AM

    Reggae was also good black singing.

    And wongba, those club hits are nothing more than dance music, in the same vein as disco and techno. They are considered music designed for women and queers by young white males, just as disco and techno were. Straight white males don't listen to or enjoy dance music, even if the frontman of the song is thuggish looking. The unique talent of Tupac caught the attention of straight white males, but after him it's been a disappointing style.

    Out of all dance musics, techno was the most advanced.

  3. Wongba -- can you honestly say that the virtuosity and passion of Marvin Gaye, or Stevie Wonder, or Ray Charles, or even Patti LaBelle, is not something lost in the junk that gets peddled as "music" ... such as Kanye West?

    West can't even create anything. He has to sample Ray Charles for his beat. There is no melody in anything he does.

    Meanwhile, an original music created and performed by Blacks, Jazz, has been abandoned because ....


    The primary audience for Jazz, is White people. It seems that as soon as Whites start liking Black music, and consuming it, Blacks abandon it.

    Guys like the Marasalis family (Branford, Quenton, Delfayo, and Ellis) are easily the match for any classical set of virtuosos, and produce astonishing music. It's akin to producing a Heifitz, and then ignoring him.

    As for "dance" music it is for women and gays. Straight white guys don't dance to it. Look at the mobile phone company ad on TV with the guy stuck in Brussels in the Youth Hostel with the "techno twins, Slad and Wieter," who are kind of gay and playing obnoxious techno.

  4. Anonymous2:33 PM

    whiskey, i didn't say anything to contest the quality of old generations of black singers. they're still out there in the form of usher and mariah carey.

    i'm saying that whining about today's music makes inductivist sound old. old white ppl whinged about jazz when i came out. they grieved when rock came out. in a decade or two, i bet white ppl will be lamenting the good old days of rap when something new comes out.

    as for dancing being for women and gays... i'll just have to say ur mileage will vary. i got into popping back in college and listened primarily to breakbeats. i got good enough at it to battle and it got me noticed by girls. i agree some girls think guys who dance are kinda gay, but i know some of their friends find it hot. that's just been my experience. girls are not monolithic.

  5. That guy actually wanted to be called Piles? If you call your self piles you are probably a pile.

  6. Anonymous12:32 AM

    You guys probably wouldn't agree with this liberal theory and Inductivist could probably come up with evidence against it, but Henry Louis Gates and Cornel West suggested that rap became popular as public school music programs became underfunded.

  7. Anonymous1:35 AM

    Whenever I listen to Marvin Gaye, I am always truly struck by his voice. What a talent.

  8. Anonymous9:55 AM

    Earth, Wind, and Fire.

    Kool and the Gang.

    Brothers Johnson.

    Bobby Caldwell (yes, I know he's white, but he sounds black). Tupac Shakur had SEVEREAL songs "based" on Caldwell's classic "What You Won't Do For Love".

    Teddy Pendergrass.

    Barry White.

    Early Michael Jackson (Off the Wall, Thriller).

    George Benson.

    Al Green.

    The Flamingos (one of the best SONGS ever, "I Only Have Eyes For You")

    The Temptations.

    Dione Warwick

    Gladys Knight

    Melissa Manchester

    I could name a few more. YouTube some of that stuff above..........and your memory will be refreshed.

  9. "...Henry Louis Gates and Cornel West suggested that rap became popular as public school music programs became underfunded."

    I'm quite confident that there was little public school funding for music in Louis Armstrong's school (how far did he even go) but he didn't create antisocial music.

  10. Akon has a really good voice. It's too bad the current climate doesn't favor him going Marvin Gaye.

    White singers aren't very expressive today either, though. They aren't rhythmically inclined -- pouty / screamy instead.

    Country western stars used to wear suits while performing, but not anymore.

    So I think this is an industry-wide thing, not just a black thing.

  11. Ha, techno is not dance music, nor advanced. It's mindless marching music. Disco is dance music, and so was the stuff from the 1983 - 1985 dance craze... and most of original rock n roll.

    The guys saying dance music is for women and gays obviously can't dance. A guy who can move is body well = hot. It doesn't have to be ballet-worthy, just a display of your physical coordination and sense of rhythm. Think of how less sexy Elvis would have been if he just stood there.

    It's one of the few things that result in girls approaching you, rather than you having to approach them. "Hey, who's that guy...?"

    There's a study from Jamaica, co-authored by Robert Trivers, showing that dancing ability predicts how symmetrical you are, and symmetry has a heritable basis.

    Basically, females use dancing skill as a way to figure out if the guy has high genetic quality. There are other ways to figure this out, but dancing ability is one very reliable way of many.

    Anytime someone brings up guys and dancing, it's almost as laughable as when short guys object to the fact that women judge men based on height. "Well I'm 5'8 and have never had trouble!" -- yeah, but that doesn't help, and being a bit taller would.

  12. The problem Agnostic is that most men cannot dance well. There is a huge downside to dancing well, in that some women can form summary judgments of "gay."

    The expected payoff, i.e. attraction by some women could be net negative with repulsion of some women. The safe move is not to dance.

    If enough women, and particularly taste-shapers or attractive women, figure dancing=gay, that can shape men's overall actions. Risk management.

    Besides, gays dominate dancing in perception, so much that straight men find it distasteful, also alien: female and gay. "Dancing with the Stars" has not helped.

    Having lived in New Orleans, dirt poor Black kids played trumpets on the street coming home from school to run down row houses. It's culture and values, not programs. Programs are only valuable in shaping culture.

    People are correct, in saying that this is cross-cultural. Compare-contrast the musical artistry and lush sound of Bryan Ferry, the Psychedelic Furs (even with the monotone of Richard Butler, there was more emotional expression in his singing than current White Rock singers), or Spandau Ballet.

    It's ironic that the famous emo kids have less emotional expression than the punk-New Wave-indie types who preceded them by twenty years. Women are all twee types like Feist, instead of real emotional singers like Siouxie Sioux or Aimee Mann.

  13. To be a great musician a person needs to possess an actual soul, an inner self. That's true of jazz, R&B, classical, and the better rock and country.

    Modern kids are a collective race. They belong to the collective, stay connected to the collective. The inner core never develops.

    Shoplifting, cheating on tests, lying about anything and everything, all very popular activities as illustrated by a recent large youth poll. Persons without an inner core have no ethics either.

    We're in a large scale cultural tradition. Religious morality has faded but nothing else is there to take its place, to introduce ethics and inner struggle to do the right thing.

    Without such struggle, art becomes shit. We're going through a phase, and although it's not pretty it may be necessary.

  14. Anonymous7:25 AM

    just as a followup aside to what agnostic said, it's interesting to see which groups do well in the competitive dance scene.

    battle of the year is a bboy competition featuring groups from around the world. for the last 10 years, south korea and japan have had a group end up as the winner or the runner up, or both. this year, taiwan made it up to the semi-finals. the US hasn't placed since 1999. france is the only european nation to place consistently.

    on america's best dance crew, crews w/ heavy asian representation have won and placed as either runners up or 2nd runners up during both seasons.

    in hip hop international competitions, the philippines, japan, and asian american crews consistently win or place in top 3 in different divisions. other consistent winners are caribbean nations.

  15. Anonymous11:01 AM

    Some of the early Muslim travel writers were disparaging about blacks, but did allow that they did well at music.

  16. Well stop listening to mainstream if your dissapointed try hip hop artist like Mos Def, Talib Kwali,Kos, The Roots, and Common. for Soul try listning to Jill Scott, Erykah badu, Goapele, Eric Roberson,Maxwell and Dwele there are many others if your going to to a piece like this don't limit yourself to mainstream cause black music is more than that.


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