The R&B Takeover: Today’s Recommended Reading


Here at Flavorwire, we pride ourselves on not only writing some of the best content on the Internet, but keeping an eye on all of the great writing that other folks on the ‘Net are doing, too. Today, we’re focusing on R&B with pieces on what Zayn Malik’s record-setting debut solo single means for the 2016 pop music landscape, how Beyoncé’s team took us to New Orleans via Los Angeles in the “Formation” music video, why Jazmine Sullivan’s Grammy-nominated Reality Show album took so long to finish, and how Rihanna’s ANTI album might be much more political than one might think.

Rolling Stone‘s Christopher R. Weingarten discusses why Zayn’s recent Billboard chart-topping debut single is really important for the landscape of R&B.

It’s not a secret that nobody was super “blown away” by Zayn Malik’s first single as a post-One Direction solo artist, “Pillowtalk.” Nothing is offensive about the song, surely, but it also wasn’t the earth-shattering moment that I’m sure many of his fans (me included) were hoping for. Nevertheless, the slow-burner debuted at #1 on Billboard, a feat that One Direction as a whole has yet to accomplish. This was exciting, of course, but what does that mean for the rest of R&B?

By being a highly successful boy-brand who’s swagger-jacking this sound, he leap-frogs over artists like Miguel and Frank Ocean — neither of which have even had a single hit the Top 20. In fact, it seems that the biggest song in the country is barely even making a dent on R&B and hip-hop radio. Malik’s victory proves that this woozy, muddy, heartbroken, insular sound can handle a pop interloper. Once-alternative “alternative R&B” is strong enough to survive its own Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch moment. If Ocean drops that LP, it’s going to be bigger now than it would have been in 2013. Get ready for a year of ooze and aahs.

Curbed’s Patrick Sisson discusses the making of the music video for Beyoncé’s newest single, “Formation.”

Did you know that none of Queen Bey’s “Formation” music video was actually filmed in New Orleans? Despite doing an excellent job of capturing the historic southern town’s essence, the video was actually shot in Los Angeles — and it was done within one week.

A Beaux Arts mansion commissioned by and built for Dr. Adalbert Fenyes and his wife Eva Scott Muse Fenyes in 1905, there was nothing really Southern about architect Robert D. Farquhar’s design, says Tobman, But the interior, with damask wallpaper and dark wood flourishes, provided more than enough to work with, and the scale of the building was ideal for a video shoot. The most striking transformation required was the exterior. Tobman and his crew added storm shutters, Spanish moss, ivy, and wisteria, and decorated it with vintage, plantation-era rugs and furniture.

Pitchfork’s Emily J. Lordi spoke with R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan about her most recent album, the Grammy-nominated Reality Show.

The Grammys are less than a week away and Jazmine Sullivan is excited. And with three nominations (including ones for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Song), the singer has plenty of reasons to be excited. Reality Show, her third album, came out after a five-year hiatus during which, she admits, she lost a lot of her confidence.

I don’t know if I thought I lost it but it just didn’t feel natural to me like it did before. It was like, “Oh my God,” like I’m taking my first steps, like I’m learning how to walk again. But the love that I got when I finally did start performing again was all that I needed to just get back out there. Just to know that people were out there and they missed me. That made all the difference.

NPR’s Erin MacLeod contextualizes Rihanna’s divisive ANTI album within the radical traditions of Barbadian resistance, while also countering it up against the American preference for predictability.

It’s been almost two weeks since Rihanna’s highly anticipated eighth studio album ANTI was “leaked” by TIDAL. And with the surprise release, most sites were forced to rush their opinions on the album—which might have been fine if the album wasn’t, itself, a close study in nuance and layering. With time to sit with the album and truly reflect, Erin approaches ANTI from a new angle: Is ANTI actually an anti-colonialist masterpiece?

But Rihanna is a Bad Gal from Bimshire, not a Bad Gyal from Jamrock. With her insistence on repping Barbados, it is always clear that Rihanna is a Bajan person who is interpolating Jamaican music and language — she chats Jamaican, not Bajan patois on “Work,” for instance — as well as numerous other types, styles, genres. This means that she not only challenges pop music, but also specific assumptions of that which equals Caribbeanness.