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The State of Female R&B

Friday, December 12, 2008

Ashanti isn't even in the building.
Neither is Eve.
But those that do make it inside, and into the diva room, are there precariously.
Music sales are just that bad.
Used to be a time when a viable female singer could be counted on to debut with 800,000 units sold. Some of them were one-hit wonders (Tweet?), others were riding off their producers (Amerie?), but now even that has eroded.
The top female music seller this year?
Well, you could have thought that Beyonce would own that, but it was only a short-lived victory.
Britney Spear's "Circus" album moved 505,000 units in its debut two weeks ago. Spears is the only act in Nielsen SoundScan history to have four albums debut with 500,000 or more in sales.
"I am ... Sasha Fierce" sold a respectable 482,000 in its debut three weeks ago.
Respectable, but nowhere near the numbers these artists are used to.
To be far, Bey's album sales have trumped Rihanna's, but RiRi has a bright future with longer legs in the business.
Now that the tallies are in, Alicia Keys (who in 3 months sold almost 3 million copies of her "As I Am" LP last fall) is the new standard-bearer for female R&B.
Not only has she brought artistry and live instrumentation back to music, but she has somehow managed to keep her clothes on (Cue Ciara Vibe cover right ... here.)
Rihanna is the artist with the biggest upside: Her latest album "Good Girl Gone Bad" has sold 6.2 million copies worldwide and has gone 2x Platinum in the Usa, 4x Platinum in the UK and Canada, 5x Platinum in Russia, and 6x Platinum in Ireland; helped by the deluxe LP "Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded".
One can't forget about the British Beehive, Amy Winehouse. Troubles aside her "Fade to Black" album is an instant classic, all the more spectacular by her Jewish soulfulness and apparent lack of refinement. Although her off-the-stage problems may well get the best of her, she is No. 1 when it comes to world acclaim and buzz (even if ASCAP doesn't see it that way).
Ciara is the only one that seems to be ready to accept the digital trends in music, opting for the voice coder that has made T-Pain an overnight success. Still, her album is in trouble before it can even get off the ground.
Of course, the portrait in the room would be Ms. Lauren Hill, with her prototype solo album, "The Miseducation of Lauren Hill," the holy grail of hip-hop/soul debuts. Although she could'nt duplicate her success sales-wise, Hill's album has quietly remained a best-seller among soul enthusiasts. With sales past 17 million and respect far surpassing that, she is the goal of today's R&B singer. And to think "Miseducation ..." was released 10 years ago.
But good music has staying power.



2009 ·Popwife Blog by TNB