This weekend I got to catch glimpse an old Soul Train episode. Soul Train was one of my favorite shows to watch as a little girl. Growing up in the 80’s it was one of the few places to see talented black women. Just my luck, I got to catch one of my favorite R&B singers perform, Angela Bofill. As some of you may have heard, Ms. Bofill just suffered a stroke this past month. I send my prayers out to her family. This woman is one of the truly most talented R&B singers of her generation. As she sang two of her biggest hits, I thought about the state of the music industry as a whole for black female performers. They are truly getting sold out by their male contemporaries.
In the eighties and early nineties, we had Denise Williams, Patti Labelle, Evelyn Champagne King, Chaka Khan, Diana Ross, Stacy Lattisaw, Jodi Watley, just to name a few. I doubt these women could get a record contract these days. With the exception of Beyonce and Mary J. Blige, there is no real stand out R&B female acts. Fantasia has become more of a Broadway star and Jill Scott still doesn’t get the love she deserves from the record industry.
Girl groups like En Vogue represented the empowerment and sensuality of being a black woman during a time when black women were still being desired and held up by our men. Today, young black girls have to Danity Kane and Pussycat Dolls as role models. They are being told you have to be skinny, light skinned and have long straight hair. These are the women black men and society has designated the version of female strength and beauty.
If you look at pop or white music, they have a diversity of female singers. Gwen Stefani, Fergie and Nelly Furtado do what I call ‘white girl’ R&B/Pop. These young women with the help of black male producers have gain fame and fortune by sounding and some say acting black. KD Tinsdale, Amy Winehouse, Sheryl Crow, and Avril Lavine do the traditional rock/pop genre with great success. Yet, Corrine Bailey Rae,a woman of color, gets most of her love and record sales from the white music community.
White women continue to grow and express their creativity as singers, while black women get thrown a bone every once in a while. This is why I believe so many black women feel animosity toward Beyonce. Unlike Vanessa Williams who garnered a few hits in the nineties along and presented herself as a true R&B singer, Beyonce has become an ‘honorary’ white girl. She represents how society feels about black beauty. It must be watered down and packaged for mainstream America. Heaven forbid she is too black. Vanessa Williams is still held in high regard in the black female community, while Beyonce is becoming our angst. Even with blue eyes, Vanessa is still one of us. I can’t honestly say the same for Ms. Knowles.
The question is who is at fault? Is it our own black male producers and record executives who have sold their talents out for the highest buck, leaving talented sisters behind?