The Road Back to R&B Originality

Weird World/Courtesy

It’s about time. R&B has been around longer than your parents have. In fact, it’s very likely that your parents wouldn’t exist without R&B. Over that time, good ol’ Rhythm & Blues has dramatically morphed in style. I mean, we’re talking Aretha Franklin in the 1960s, Stevie Wonder in the 1970s, Lionel Richie in the 1980s, TLC in the 1990s, Usher in the 2000s. All these artists worked on the same foundation of R&B, but the houses they built on that foundation were decorated rather differently. (By the way, do yourself a favor and click on all those links. Nostalgia is at your fingertips).

As the decade of the 2000s came to a close, the contemporary R&B blaring from our subwoofers all sounded the same. A little too much T-Pain and Chris Brown. Originality was a rarity. Auto-Tune was in abundance.

But then came a glimmer of hope in the form of Drake, the Weeknd, and, most recently, Frank Ocean. The formula changed — production and instrumentation became far more compelling. It was dreamy and woozy and it sounded awesome. If these songs haven’t graced your ears yet, please take a moment: The Weeknd’s “Montreal” and Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good.”

Now, we’re luckily on the road back to interesting R&B. Everyone, meet Miguel and How to Dress Well, 2012’s most promising heirs to the R&B throne. Those are two separate artists, but as I read their names together, I’m convinced they should collaborate.

The first track, Miguel’s “Adorn,” is a sweaty, slow-burning number, starting to get some radio play. Then check out the lesser-known, spare, understated banger “& It Was You,” by How to Dress Well. Get the repeat button ready.

Miguel — “Adorn”

How to Dress Well — “& It Was You”