Recently legendary Brian McKnight released a preview of his song “If you’re ready to learn”, from an upcoming Adult mixtape. Yes an Adult mixtape, filled with highly sexualized music tracks. Now remember I said “Adult”, here are the lyrics:

Every time you give it up, you leave so unsatisfied.

Pointing the finger, the feelings that linger, leave you asking the question Why?

They talk a real good game, but they don’t know what a tongue is for.

They wine you and dine you, you let him untie you and you leave wanting more.

I did my post-grad in pussyology, so what I tell you might seem strange.

The things you don’t know about your physiology, you don’t have to be ashamed.

Chorus

Let meeee show you have your pussy works, since you didn’t bring it to me first.

I have lots of things to show you, if you’re ready to learn.

Let meeee show you have your pussy work, I becha didn’t know that it could squirt.

I have lots of things to show you, if you’re ready to learn.

I don’t know if drugs, alcohol or crying were involved in the making of this song, but I do know that Brian McKnight, even with such a haunting chorus as this, will now never get a Grammy. I wouldn’t call this a comeback, but it is hilarious and or his newly leaked “Anal” song is a bit disturbing. It’s a huge leap for the Brian McKnight who moved us with great songs like, “One Last Cry” , “Anytime”, “Back at One”  and “Still” to be happily singing about the Vajayjay. I’ll be the first to say that men do think and say that they can show women how their p*ssy works and most of them have no idea how to use their tongues, but here it just seems tacky.  Many women don’t know their physiology, allow dudes “hit” far too quick and are are partially to blame for not being satisfied, so the topic is worth discussing, but in heavy rotation on an R&B song… Crooners and real singers are gone from R&B, replaced by talented well produced entertainers. R&B songs are all sexual, most of the emotion and soulfulness is gone. R&B purest complain about the electro-club-rap-pop feel of the songs, just as much as they question who isn’t or who is R&B?

Questions remain…Adele, Drake and Rihanna are they R&B, or just pop? Rhythm and Blues once connected with us emotionally, not just sexually. Much of what passes for R&B played on the radio has lost it’s soul. When Drake sings with emotion, he gets air-time, but by-in-large he gets hated on, is the public is saying “We don’t want to feel anymore”?  Usher’s new song “Climax” which gives the genre a much needed soulfulness, usually gets played with sped up techno-club track behind it. As singer/songwriter The Dream recently noted “What’s crazy is that blacks can’t do soul records any more, we love Adele singing it, but Beyoncé singing it? No, the tempo’s too slow, gimme the club hit. Now the blacks in America are responsible for the pop records, and everybody else is singing soulful records. It’s weird to me.” The Dreams’ comments indicate an even deeper discussion about why R&B is in the midst of an identity crisis.

Are we ready for these type of R&B songs?

MG Hardie

This list is not based only on albums sales, nor pure vocal power, this list takes into account the artist impact. Each of these artist created music that represents how we look at life, how we deal with and cultivate relationships, and some of went so far as to show how we view the world. R & B is no longer the soulful rhythm genre of music it once was. It has now been co-opted by hip hop and pop. I am sure that many people will have issue with some of the people on my list. If you’re favorite artist doesn’t have enough material for a greatest hits albums, they’re probably not on this list.

1. Stevie Wonder  is pure musical genius! Mr. Stevie Wonder is a gifted musician who has one of the smoothest, melodic, and recognizable voices to every be heard on radio, hands down. Since the age of 13 Mr. Wonder and produced hit after hit and here it is four decades, 30 top ten hits and 22 Grammys later and his music still makes us smile. He was never one to sing easy song, he sung songs with difficult choruses, abrupt stops and unpredictable changes. His accomplishments and impact on the music world is unrivaled.

2.Michael Jackson  as a 10 year-old he blew most competition young and old out the water! M.J. wasn’t just a  talent, he was a true student of music. To Michael Jackson music is art and he used his versatility to navigate musical genres effortlessly. His songs went the extra mile, with sound and vocal effects to create a deeper ambiance. Through his voice you could hear the anxiety, sadness or stress of a song, it was Jackson’s musical experimentations that led to the creation of modern-day pop-music. Michael’s voice is as distinctive, his smooth harmonic sounds are timeless. He has been often imitated (Donnell Jones, Usher, Beyonce, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown and countless others), but never duplicated!  You can also credit him with the needless explosion of choreography in videos and stage performance.

3. Prince was musically and thematically ahead of his time. Compiling ten platinum albums and thirty Top 40 singles during his career. He infused dark funk, pop, gospel soul with R & B passion. It was Prince and Michael Jackson who and sustained Music Television and music video.  He is also the uncredited father of the “text message”. Prince is an ambitious, creative, inspired musician. His off-kilter, feminine voiced songs are not duplicate. From ballads, to love songs, to dance melodies Prince did it all.

4. R. Kelly  is an incredibly gifted versatile singer. Robert Kelly can bring you from high and passionate, to a playful sing-song flow with the greatest of ease. Kells, or the Pied-Piper of R & B manages to reinvent himself with each album. He has sung songs about topics that are relevant to the everyday man from finances, to love problems, to having faith in oneself. Billboard has acknowleded R. Kelly as #1 R & B artist of the last 25 years, go figure. His collaborations are legendary and the next time you are “Stepping”, or doing the “Slide” at a club or wedding reception remember that R. Kelly made it possible.

5. Ray Charles: His records were always filled with an expressed assortment of slurs, glides, moans, shrieks, wails, shouts, and hollers that were all beautifully controlled, disciplined and inspired by his musicianship. For over 40 years Ray Charles filled us with thought and empowerment. He composed, arranged and produced his music long before there was a corporate vehicle to do so. Whether he was tackling country music, putting in Latin-esque blues motif or call and responses with the back-up singer, Ray Charles was a musical explorer who pushed boundaries and the boundaries of race, a pioneer.  He had one of the most distinctive and powerful voices the industry has ever known and it’s a shame that more people don’t know his work.

Also in order and deserving to be mentioned for the great music and contributions to the R & B genre are James Brown, Luther Vandross, Lionel Richie, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pentergrass, Al Jereau, Usher,  Ron Isley, Smokey Robinson,  Keith Sweat, Al Green,  Freddie Jackson, Baby Face,  Barry White, Jackie Wilson, Peabo Bryson, Frankie Beverly, Brian McNight, Maxwell, Howard Hewett, Jackie Wilson, Jeffrey Osbourne, James Ingram, Avant, Lou Rawls, Brian Mcknight, Musiq and Joe.

What’s  Your Top 5?