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The genre may go by many names — R&B, soul, urban contemporary, rhythmic — but one thing is for sure, when you hear it, you know what you're listening to. You're listening to music that hits you on a visceral level — in your heart, mind, body, and soul. Not only do you hear it, but you feel it.
I've loved R&B/soul music more than any other genre of music for as long as I can remember, and to now run the award-winning soul music and lifestyle website, www.soulbounce.com, and write about something that I love and am passionate about on a daily basis is truly rewarding, even as the music itself continues to evolve.
R&B has gone through many phases over the years. In the past 20 years alone, I've witnessed the rise of subgenres such as new jack swing, hip-hop soul and neo-soul, and artists such as Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Usher, Alicia Keys, John Legend, and Janelle Monáe transcend urban audiences to become bona fide pop stars. Joining these artists in their ever-increasing widespread appeal are established acts such as Monica, Maxwell, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, and India.Aire, as well as up-and-coming artists including Miguel, Melanie Fiona, Chrisette Michele, Elle Varner, and 2011's hot new artist Frank Ocean.
Ocean's success is an example of how the R&B game has changed in the past five years. Taking a page out of hip-hop's book of tricks, some R&B artists are surpassing traditional recording contracts and radio airplay to get their music heard by the masses, and turning to the Internet, connecting with online tastemakers such as SoulBounce. That positive online buzz has been key for unsigned talent as well as independent artists, such as Eric Roberson and Anthony David, to gain a foothold in the industry and convert online admirers to offline fans. That was unheard of a decade ago, but times and technology have changed and R&B artists have adapted — for their good and the good of their fans.