*Adele is a once in a generation type of singer (if that generation only includes white people).
Otherwise, she is more or less average when compared to the multitude of black performers, male and female, past and present, who have recorded all-time great ballads for public consumption.
During a recent interview, veteran crooner Tyrese Gibson lamented the failure of popular, white-owned radio stations to feature R&B music as much as they do other genres like Pop, Rock and Techo-Funk.
Here’s the rub, he further explained, when European-born artists like Adele or Sam Smith release new songs, most of which embody a soulful flavor, they receive perpetual radio play and adulation from all the major stations, even those that accommodate the culturally specific inclinations of African-American listeners.
Adele’s new single “Hello,” which contains more than a few similarities to Lionel Richie’s 1984 smash, coincidentally named “Hello,” has become as ubiquitous in people’s cars as any other song released this year. The song is only a few weeks old, and already it’s being exalted as one of the greatest of its time.
This assessment reinforces Tyrese’s premise of a double standard preventing African-American vocalists from penetrating the mainstream, and it underscores the formidable power of white privilege.
“Any number of black women could sing ‘Hello’ with more power and sincerity than Adele could ever dream of. Unfortunately, none of these versions but hers would sell.”
I recently flew to Atlanta on assignment and during my stay, I had the pleasure of hearing Angie Stone perform live. After 35 years in the business, and countless classics, she told reporters prior to the show that she is starting from the ground up, recovering from an industry that has chewed her up, spit her out, and left her for dead. It was disturbing for me to see Angie, a supremely talented singer, have to shop physical copies of her album to the crowd as if she’s some newcomer trying to gain a following.
I’m saying all this because it’s her sound, and others before her, that helped to pave the way for imitators like Adele and Sam Smith, who by the way, didn’t bother to claim his BET Award for Best New Artist during last June’s ceremony. Had he been receiving a Grammy award, or the white equivalent, I’m certain he would’ve shown up with bells on. But the perceived insignificance of black music outside of hip hop discouraged him from personally accepting an award that reflects the very essence of his sound. Furthermore, his absence that day symbolizes a general apathy toward a genre that, apart from Jazz, was extracted from the inner-most layer of black artistry.
This brings me back to Adele. I’m not saying the young lady isn’t talented. In my opinion, she’s a refreshing departure from those in music who rely on auto-tune, elaborately choreographed dance-routines, and lip-syncing to compensate for their lack of vocal ability. However, Adele’s rapid climb to superstardom, and her inevitable placement into the pantheon of history’s greatest vocal performers, are quintessential examples of how society elevates its white heroes, even when their accomplishments are derived from the culture of other racial groups. When Adele sings, her voice is fused with the spirit of true soul singers like Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Etta James, Chaka Khan, and Whitney Houston.
Nevertheless, the color of Adele’s skin has blinded the masses to a simple fact: she is simply a carbon copy of past generations, there’s little else that separates her from the pack. Adele’s success is rooted in a formula where white privilege digs into black culture, pulls out what it wants, applies new packaging and exploits the borrowed thing for profit and recognition. It’s a ponzi scheme developed by the same entity that has in recent years popularized a trait associated with black women that surpasses even the power of song: large rear-ends.
And in the same way a plastic surgeon enhances the size of woman’s buttocks to meet the current standard, Adele’s music has been tailored to satisfy society’s taste for reheated leftovers. Her vocal ability is no greater than Jill Scott, Lalah Hathaway, Jennifer Hudson, or even Angie Stone, but Adele will reach a plateau of mainstream prosperity that demolishes her black contemporaries.
Humanity’s exaltation of white skin is responsible for the unmerited idolization of numerous entertainers and athletes, ranging from Eminem to Tina Marie to Larry Bird. Adding insult to injury, the pedestal on which these names and others sit, is preserved in large part by the support of black consumers. Instead of viewing Adele’s ubiquity on the radio as an insult to R&B’s remaining few, hoards of black listeners have climbed on her bandwagon, adding to the hysteria. Essentially, she is being lifted up by the very people from whom she is stealing.
Although R&B isn’t dead, the genre has reached an impasse. Long gone are the days of old when substance was a priority, and flash was icing on the cake. The music industry has become increasingly superficial, allowing the entry of substandard performers equipped with props and parlor tricks. Battle-tested singers like Angie Stone will likely have to scratch and claw henceforth for every dollar they earn. Adele, on the other hand, will hear the sound of her bank account expanding every time her song is played on the radio.
The Black Hat is written by Southern California based Cory A. Haywood, a freelance writer and expert on Negro foolishness. Contact him via: [email protected] and/or visit his blogs: www.coryhaywood.webs.com and corythewriter.blogspot.com, or send him a message on Twitter: @coryahaywood