Rhythm and blues artist H.E.R. performs onstage during the Global Citizen Festival,

Rhythm and blues artist H.E.R. performs onstage during the Global Citizen Festival,

Like any genre of music, the sound of rhythm and blues is constantly evolving.

At the present moment, the registers are higher, the production is more prominent and no one can deny the influence of other genres — from hip-hop to alternative, to electronic.

But in the summer of 2018, “artists attempting to recapture some of R&B’s former expressive range have started to reach mainstream listeners again,” according to Rolling Stone.

Here’s more:

Take Teyana Taylor. While 2014’s VII submerged her voice beneath identikit hip-hop beats, June’s K.T.S.E. works in the tradition of raspy southern soul (“Issues/Hold On”) and also evokes the wistfulness of early Seventies Al Green (“Gonna Love Me”). The latter finds Taylor singing rings around a loose, loping beat produced by Kanye West. As she prepares to flash head-turning high notes, she lets the strain show in her voice — an unusual choice in the age when every bum note is smoothed over. What’s even more surprising: Although the sound of “Gonna Love Me” would usually consign it to Urban [Adult Contemporary], the track has quietly become a modest hit at mainstream urban radio, climbing to Number 21 and reaching 6.7 million listeners last week.

What’s the current sound of R&B and how did we get here? Is the overlapping of R&B with other genres beneficial or harmful?

Produced by Jonquilyn Hill.


  • Naima Cochrane Music and culture writer; @naima
  • Tom Leo Founder and CEO, You Know I Got Soul; @YKIGS
  • Gabrielle Goodman Professor of voice, Berklee College of Music; @ggoodman2

1A Producers' Picks: R&B Past And Present

Our producer Jonquilyn made us a playlist of the songs she listened to while she was putting this show together. Here it is.

A 'Quiet Storm' Playlist By Guest Naima Cochrane

Here are Naima Cochrane’s ‘Quiet Storm’ favorites, presented here in playlist form.

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