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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Can White People Succeed in R&B?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 6, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Are you a musician? Is your group having issues? Ask Fan Landers! Critic Jessica Hopper has played in and managed bands, toured internationally, booked shows, produced records, worked as a publicist, and is the author of The Girls' Guide to Rocking, a how-to for teen ladies. She is here to help you stop doing it wrong. Send your problems to her -- confidentiality is assured, unless you want to use your drama as a ticket to Internet microfame.

Dear Fan, I'm a Brooklyn based Soul/Pop singer songwriter. I took a break this year from performing because I grew tired of constantly inundating my social media sites with "PLZ COME TO MAH SHOW" spam and I wanted to write fresh material to showcase. I want to make sure that I enter the new year right as far as hitting my target with all the new content. I obviously want to reach a larger audience and make them believers too. I am reminded, when visiting Pitchfork and other hip music blogs, that the odds are against being a white r&b singer in an industry where r&b is dead. So, how do I keep pushing this boulder up hill and making strides so that I show my talent in the right way? I know Russel Simmons isn't gonna show up on my doorstep and sign me, but I surely want blogs and real music lovers to recognize what I'm about. Confidentiality Requested

Dear Con, First thing: I watched your live video and your voice is bananas. You can sing anything. If you wanted to slum it in indie rock, people would marvel. You could go on any reality singing show. You could keep on doing what you are doing -- but wait, what are you doing? In this one video you are singing Georgian folks songs in the style of a louder Sade -- not quite the same thing as r&b. In this other one it's needlessly auto-tuned party pop. If I were some tertiary A&R scout out on a weeknight at a showcase I would be blown away by your voice/look/poise but would wonder where in the world you fit.

You are going to have a great year, but a few things need to happen. First, you need to toughen up a little. Getting discouraged by no feedback really slowed you up. Also, I watched your "about me" video and the third topic you get to is how discouraged you are by the state of music and why you think you haven't been noticed yet (basically). It's a bad look. And though you are being honest, it's kind of a poisonous attitude. A little bit of "this world doesn't get me" is good, it can motivate your underdog spirit. A lot is like... no one wants to work with you and you are so bummed you take a year off. Read some Pema Chodron and work on your acceptance that you are at the start of your journey and it just sucks most of the time. Also, r&b is still the dominant force in pop music (fun. was the first rock band to have a song go to #1 in 11 years, FYI) and America is still a deeply racist land. Being white is still probably an advantage. So, you know, buck up and don't let either be an excuse.


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