Usher has said that he loves the rebound R&B has made in recent years — but he scoffs at the notion the genre was ever dead.
The narrative that R&B died has been an ongoing conversation in recent years, and it came to a fever pitch in 2022 when Diddy adamantly echoed the sentiment. However, artists like SZA, Coco Jones, Victoria Monét and more have brought new life into it in recent years, and Ursh is all the way here for it.
“I’m very happy that there’s a new installation of R&B artists who care to be authentic to what they are creating, inspired by artists of the past,” he told Billboard in a new interview published on Wednesday (February 7). “Everybody who has ever said to me that R&B is dead sounds crazy. Especially when I know the origins of R&B are in all other genres of music. It’s about creating commerce in other spaces.
“Lovers & Friends is a successful R&B festival that gives you a place to go and celebrate the songs that we make. We need things that you associate with R&B that you can buy into. Like with Hip-Hop — glasses, clothes, cars, jewelry, sneakers … ancillary things that people can access. R&B needs and has the potential to have those things as well.”
He concluded: “My point is, I never felt like R&B was dying. I think it just needs expansion. We’re moving toward a standard where people are looking at snippets — TikTok, Instagram and other things — and when fans get it, they take it and do something with it. But if we start to think of it that way and create from that place, the standards for R&B will change. You won’t be able to compare it in an old-versus-new way. It’ll just be what it is.”
There’s long been a conversation surrounding the current state of R&B, especially in the mainstream. In a 2020 interview with BBC News, Usher’s longtime friend and collaborator Jermaine Dupri said there was a “big gap” in the industry for R&B’s return.
The producer attributed the demise of the genre to the arrest of R.Kelly, describing the singer as a “centerpiece” in the genre. However, Dupri remained optimistic for the genre’s return to relevancy — perhaps via Usher himself. [Usher’s long-awaited Coming Home is set for release this Friday (February 9).]
“But if Usher can come back and we do what we gotta do with [a new] album and it pops off, somebody has to safeguard it and make sure that they say that it’s R&B,” he added. “Because if they don’t, and it gets big, then it’s gonna trend to the left and somebody’s gonna call it a pop album.”
He said that’s partly why the record has been held back all these years, because they’re waiting “to get everybody to believe” that R&B can re-emerge as a commercial force.
“If I can have a hand in helping to inspire people wanting to sing again, and this Usher album makes people wanna sing, then I would really be proud of myself,” Dupri concluded.
Prior to his super successful Las Vegas residency that ultimately paved the road for his forthcoming Super Bowl Halftime Show, new album and accompanying tour, Usher announced that he planned to “wake up R&B” just around a year ago.